HAVANA, 23 November The battle for the Cuban charter flight business out of Tampa International Airport has landed in federal court, exposing what U.S. citizens must pay the secretive Cuban government for use of Havana’s José Martí International Airport.
The annual total is somewhere between $31 million and $62 million — more than any other nation pays, said one Cuba analyst — enough to make critics question whether the fee is covering actual costs or going to support Cuba
. Tampa International Airport, by comparison, received $14.6 million in landing fees during 2014 for flights from airlines based in every nation that lands here. On a per-flight basis, the same U.S. plane that pays $275 for landing fees at Tampa International pays up to $24,000 in Havana.
The cost estimates on U.S.-Cuba flights is based on two factors: the revelation in court documents that landing fees range as high as $148 for each U.S. passenger, coupled with the projection that two-thirds of the 635,000 Americans traveling to the island nation in 2014 are destined for the capital city of Havana.
“It is a way to get more money off the U.S. since the U.S. government blocks it from making money in other ways,” said Arturo Lopez-Levy, a policy analyst for the Cuban government from 1992-94 who now is an academic in Denver and an advocate for better relations between Cuba and the U.S. Lopez-Levy said the U.S. is the only nation in the world that pays such high fees to land in Havana.