|Havana, Cuba // Photo by Joe Pike|
The Tampa Bay Times and other media outlets have recently reported that local charter flight companies who operate service to Cuba could soon be obsolete due to the influx of commercial flights from the U.S. to Cuba.
According to the Tampa Bay Times report, Cuba Travel Services, arguably the most well-known charter company to Cuba, will cease operations from Tampa and the future of the two other local charter companies — Island Travel & Tours and ABC Charters — remains unclear.
According to the report, the Cuban government grants landing rights to charters in six-month increments and issues authorization three months in advance. The Tampa Bay Times also reported that Tessie Aral, president of ABC Charters, said flights for the cycle starting in November should have been authorized by the first of August, but they were not.
More than 41,000 passengers flew from Tampa to Cuba in 2012, according to the report. The number of passengers increased again after December 2014 when President Obama announced diplomatic relations with the Communist government would be restored, according to the report. More than 71,000 passengers flew from Tampa to Cuba in 2015, according to the report.
The number of charter flights from the Tampa airport also increased from two each week in 2011 to nine in peak season. The number will drop to seven with the loss of the two weekly flights by Cuba Travel Services, according to the Tampa Bay Times report.