American Airlines On Cuba: 'We’re Ready To Go Now'
If talks between the United States and Cuba produced an announcement that airlines could begin regularly scheduled commercial service to Havana tomorrow, American Airlines would be ready.
That’s what Howard Kass, vice president for regulatory affairs at American, told the Miami Herald in a wide-ranging interview about the airline’s role now that the Obama Administration has reinstated diplomatic relations with Cuba.
American already flies 22 charter flights a week to Cuba, so Kass said the airline is ready to begin — or resume, after 51 years — commercial service.
Here are some highlights of the interview the Herald did with Kass.
ON WHEN AMERICAN WOULD BE READY TO GO COMMERCIALLY: “We anticipate operating to Cuba as soon as the two governments work everything out. We’re ready to go now. We look forward to going, and we think it will be a great benefit for passengers. Not just in Miami, but throughout the United States. Today, when we take somebody to Cuba, the charter process is a separate one. We can’t ticket them all the way through. Their bag check isn’t seamless. So once different points in Cuba become part of the American network, a passenger in Minneapolis will book a ticket to Havana just as easily as that same passenger in Minneapolis books a ticket to other points in the Caribbean on American.”
ON HOW FAR ALONG THE CONVERSATONS ARE BETWEEN THE TWO GOVERNMENTS: “We think they’re fairly far along. We know that there have been proposals exchanged between the governments. We know that the governments last month had talks in Havana that I think narrowed some more of the differences. A big issue is all the regulatory and legislative sanctions on Cuba. It’s a bit more complicated than a typical air service negotiation between the United States and another country, but we know and believe that both governments are committed to getting scheduled service between the United States and Cuba."
ON THE BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES FOR AMERICAN IN CUBA: “We want to see Cuban destinations as part of our route network so we can sell them on our website. You’ll be able to book at aa.com or through any of the other sales channels American uses. Today, you can only book a flight to Cuba by going through the charter operators… As the Obama administration brings down more and more prohibitions on doing business and traveling to Cuba and interacting with Cuba, we believe that will increase demand. As folks who never considered Cuba a destination now want to go, as businesses never thought they could sell in Cuba now have it on their radarscope, we think that will increase demand. Over time, we think that the prohibition on tourism will go away. That will also increase demand to Cuba."
ON WHERE CUBA RANKS FOR AMERICAN’S STAKEHOLDERS: “It’s really important to the company. The company wants to have a big presence in Cuba. It’s a high priority for me, it’s a high priority for American Airlines.”
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