Sunday, November 25, 2012

Lauderdale-to-Cuba charter flights coming to an end

Lauderdale-to-Cuba charter flights coming to an end
November 24, 2012|By Doreen Hemlock, Staff writer

Charter flights from Fort Lauderdale to Cuba, launched with much fanfare
last year, are being stopped.

Airline Brokers Co., the charter operator offering the Lauderdale
service, said Cuba's government suspended its landing rights effective
Nov. 27. That means a halt to its charters from Miami too.

C&T Charters also has had its landing rights suspended, affecting its
flights from Miami and other U.S. gateways to the Caribbean island, C &
T representatives confirmed.

Other charter companies still operate to the communist-led nation, but
none from Fort Lauderdale.

In a letter on its website, Airline Brokers' aid its suspension came
after Havana "evaluated capacity in the U.S.-Cuba charter market and
certain other issues." It did not specify those other issues.

Travel experts had raised questions about possible over-capacity in
charters to Cuba. Some offerings to Cuba from Washington, D.C. and
Puerto Rico have been delayed or halted this year because of
insufficient demand.

Airline Brokers said it is trying to shift passengers with reservations
on its flights to other charters still flying Cuba routes. If new
arrangements cannot be made, the company offers full refunds.

Airline Brokers, C&T and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport
could not be reached for further comment Friday.

In business since 1982, Airline Brokers launched Lauderdale-Cuba
charters in September last year using JetBlue Airways planes. The
company started with one flight a week to Havana, and in April, added a
second plus a new service to Cienfuegos on the island's south coast. It
trimmed Miami service to adjust for Lauderdale flights, trying not to
saturate the market, President Vivian Mannerud has said.

U.S-Cuba charters serve mainly Cuban-American travelers but also have
aimed to carry other U.S. travelers on authorized "people-to-people"
exchange trips. Yet U.S. Treasury officials have approved few exchange

Charter traffic spiked in 2010 after the Obama administration allowed
Cuban-Americans visit the island as often as they wish. But growth has
slowed since then. Miami International Airport, the main U.S. gateway to
Cuba, reported only a 5 percent increase to 335,335 charter passengers
to Cuba last year.

Charter operators derive revenues from passenger tickets payments for
extra luggage and freight hauled down to the island. But income from
cargo has slumped since September.

That's because Havana slapped new duties on goods carried by passengers
and bought largely in South Florida stores. Experts say cash-strapped
Cuba aims to shift purchases to government-owned shops on the island.

U.S. citizens are restricted from traveling to Cuba under the
50-year-old U.S trade embargo against the island, which aims to limit
dollars to the communist government long led by brothers Fidel and Raul

Charter flights from Fort Lauderdale to Cuba halted - Sun Sentinel -

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