Feb. 2, 2016

Flight crews of U.S.-based aircraft can now remain in Cuba with their aircraft when traveling to the island nation, instead of having to reposition immediately after offloading passengers.

The change took effect Jan. 27, with new amendments to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations and Export Administration Regulations issued by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), respectively.

“This change will save cycles on the aircraft and crew, and keep the aircraft readily available when taking authorized travelers into Cuba,” said Rick Snider, compliance manager for Rockwell Collins ARINCDirect Flight Services.

In the previous iteration of the U.S. regulations last September, BIS authorized aircraft to remain in Cuba up to seven days, but OFAC’s interpretation of the rules did not allow the crew to stay.

“They could fly the plane down, but they could not engage in what were termed ‘travel-related transactions’ – getting hotel rooms, purchasing meals, those kinds of things that are necessary if you’re going to remain in a location for any time,” Snider explained.

Now, OFAC has expanded general license authorizing travel-related transactions “directly incident to the facilitation of the temporary sojourn of aircraft… includes the travel-related transactions by personnel who are required for normal operation and service on board a vessel or aircraft or who are required to provide services to a vessel in port or aircraft on the ground. Travel-related transactions by such personnel must be limited to the duration and scope of their duties in relation to the particular authorized temporary sojourn.”

In a separate action, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has expanded to 22 the number of American airports “suitable to accommodate flights traveling between the United States and Cuba,” up from the original 16. The list now includes Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS), Logan International Airport (BOS), Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) and Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT).

“We have certainly seen a dramatic increase in recent months in the number of inquiries about traveling to Cuba,” Snider said, advising business aircraft operators to “validate that the traveler is going for authorized reasons” and to retain all records related to Cuba trips for five years.