Airlines launching new commercial flights between the U.S. and Cuba turn to freight forwarders in transporting all necessary items for their station openings to the island.
The decision in 2015 by U.S. President Barack Obama to begin improving bilateral relations towards possible loosening of the over 50-year embargo on Cuba is facilitating a modest resumption of exchanges between the two countries. Though initial measures have stopped well short of fully restoring U.S.-Cuban commercial activities that many companies anxiously await, they are permitting an increased flow of people and limited materials between the two nations. Leading that activity are U.S. airlines that have been granted new U.S.-Cuba commercial flight slots -- and freight forwarding partners helping them with their transportation needs to the island.
“This is very positive development for the airlines now also being able to fly to Cuba, for the aerospace sector actors that work with them, and for transport and logistics specialists assisting with the station openings at new Cuban destinations,” says Kenneth Brown, Operations Manager for Bolloré Logistics in Miami, which has overseen shipping of materials needed by client airlines opening offices and airport facilities in Havana and other cities across Cuba. “And the resumption of commercial flights is the first step towards whatever the future may bring.”
It’s unclear how or when U.S.-Cuba ties might expand further, or whether that could involve fully resumed bilateral investment, business and trade. But Mr. Brown stresses the importance of renewed commercial flights between the countries as being a major development for travelers and airlines unto itself. It also could serve as a potential foundation for wider activity should restrictions ease further later on, he adds.
A total of eight U.S. passenger airlines have been granted routes between 13 American cities and nine destinations in Cuba. That activity began with an inaugural Ft. Lauderdale-Santa Clara flight Aug. 31. Since then, a host of carriers have introduced service to eight Cuban cities, awaiting the first flights to and from Havana in late November.
Operating at full schedule capacity, airlines will offer 30 daily round-trip flights from U.S. cities that include Atlanta, Charlotte, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, New York City, Orlando, and Tampa.
But that new traffic in the skies required advance work to create business facilities on the ground – an effort making freight forwarders important partners to airline clients. Due to the consequences of an over half-century American embargo, virtually all materials required by carriers for new ground agencies had to be shipped in from the U.S.
“Everything from paper clips, stationary, office supplies, forms, tags and everything and anything needed for offices to computers and screens for ticketing desks had to be transported to the island,” says Mr. Brown, noting Bolloré Logistics’ previous participation in opening 15 new Latin American stations for a major airline client in the past four years. “Everything necessary to turn incoming flights around with outbound passengers aboard had to be transported in, and set up in time for scheduled service to start.”
Mr. Brown says two of those new stations recently began operation, Camaguey and Holguin.
Should demand and regulations allow this new business to expand with time, it is reasonable to assume airlines operating in Cuba will need the same kind of maintenance and servicing capacities they rely upon elsewhere in the world. If so, that could involve new flows of parts and components from aerospace companies to and from the island – and more work for freight forwarding specialists in the sector.
“This activity is all very new – just starting out – so nobody’s getting that far yet,” says Mr. Brown, noting Bolloré Logistics’ large stake in global aerospace logistics and transport. “But if that time comes, we’ll be there, with and for clients, to seize opportunities and overcome challenges involved.”