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U.S. Department of Transportation Denies Exemptions for Cuba Cargo Flights

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Effective October 13, DOT suspended the authority of U.S. and foreign carriers to provide charter flights between the United States and Cuba.  DOT’s suspension order provided for certain limited exceptions, specifically for “authorized charter flights for emergency medical purposes, search and rescue, and other travel deemed to be in the interest of the United States” (DOT Order 2020-8-4).  DOT took this suspension action at the express request of the Department of State, in a letter to DOT from Secretary Pompeo, and DOT’s language as to the permitted exceptions was taken verbatim from Secretary Pompeo’s letter.
Two U.S. air taxi operators have requested exemptions from DOT’s Cuba charter suspension order, to operate small-aircraft all-cargo charter flights between Miami and Havana.  The applicants, Skyway Enterprises, Inc. (Skyway) and IBC Airways, Inc. (IBC), each assert that their proposed flights are humanitarian in nature and therefore should be permitted under the exceptions provided for under DOT’s charter suspension order.  Given that the language of those exceptions originated with the Department of State, DOT consulted with the Department of State to determine whether they regard the proposed Skyway and IBC flights as coming within the specified exceptions.  We received guidance from the Department of State that the applications did not fall within the specified exceptions, and that grant of the requested authority would not be in the foreign policy interests of the United States.  Accordingly, DOT has issued an order denying the requested exemptions. This order can be viewed on by entering “DOT-OST-2020-0129” in the search field.