Last updated: 02:08 PM ET, Wed October 21 2015

Gov. Christie Pressing Port Authority To Block United’s Cuba Flights

Impacting Travel | Rich Thomaselli | October 21, 2015

Gov. Christie Pressing Port Authority To Block United’s Cuba Flights

Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

As United Airlines aims to begin flight to Cuba out of Newark, it's finding a roadblock in the form of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who wants a longtime fugitive living in Cuba to be extradited first.

Christie sent a letter to the Port Authority Chairman John Degnan on Tuesday saying it would “unacceptable” for United to operate flights to Cuba out of New Jersey’s Newark-Liberty International Airport.

"I understand that the Port Authority is considering a request to open regular flights between Cuba and Newark Liberty International Airport," the governor and Republican presidential candidate wrote in a letter obtained by the Associated Press and by NJ Advance Media. "It is unacceptable to me as governor to have any flights between New Jersey and Cuba until, and unless, convicted cop-killer and escaped fugitive Joanne Chesimard is returned to New Jersey to face justice."

Chesimard in 1977 was convicted of killing a New Jersey state trooper and sentenced to life in prison. In 1979, three armed men broke into the prison where she was being held and helped her escape. Now 67, Chesimard has been taking refuge in Cuba for the last 34 years.

Degnan, a Christie appointee, told that "I think the governor's strongly expressed opinion requires that we immediately look very closely into this request by United for a flight to Havana from Newark and that review should be within a couple of days.”

United, like several other domestic airlines, is looking to begin commercial flights to Cuba for the first time in more than 50 years in what could be a potentially lucrative route.

"We asked the Port Authority to seek authorization from Customs & Border Protection for Newark Liberty to serve as a gateway for U.S.–Cuba service, subject to an air service agreement being reached between the two countries," United said in a statement. "We remain very interested in serving Cuba as soon as we are able to do so, and believe United's service would benefit the airport and the region."

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