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US DOT approves emergency cargo flights to Cuba

Shortages, protests open door for aid shipments

(Updated: June 23, 2021, 11:15 A.M. ET with details on IBC Airways petition)

The U.S. Department of Transportation has granted temporary approval to small cargo airlines in South Florida to fly emergency aid to Cuba, where large protests have erupted in recent days in response to a long-simmering economic crisis worsened by the COVID pandemic.

The department said IBC Airways and Skyway Enterprises could each operate 20 flights from Miami to Havana through late September carrying humanitarian aid and diplomatic cargo for the U.S. Embassy.

Last August, the Trump administration suspended the authority of all U.S. and foreign air carriers to provide charter flights between the U.S. and Cuba, besides a limited number of authorized public charter flights, as part of its campaign to ratchet up economic pressure on the Cuban regime to make reforms.

The order allowed exceptions for emergency medical situations, and the DOT ruled Wednesday that current conditions allow exemptions to the cargo ban. 

Cubans are feeling the effects of severe shortages of food and medicine, hyperinflation and long blackouts in oppressive heat, all byproducts of a centrally planned economy that has left the country underdeveloped for decades. Protestors are angry about having to stand in long lines for basic necessities, lack of jobs and restrictions on liberties.

IBC said in its request that its shipments will include personal parcels containing food, medicine, and hygienic and medical supplies. IBC’s cargo fleet consists of seven Saab 340 aircraft. It amended its original request for twice-weekly operations to Havana on July 21 and now seeks five weekly flights to multiple locations in Cuba.

Skyway operates Shorts 360 turboprops.

Another carrier, iAero Airways, informed the DOT that if the department granted the IBC and Skyway applications it also would seek to transport humanitarian aid to Cuba for customers.

Click here for more FreightWaves/American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.


US blocks air cargo flights with aid for Cuba


  1. This is needed but the current gov in Cuba needs to have major changes. A bad gov can be any color. The Cuban gov is very had for the last 30 years. Many people would like to be observers in Cuba
    That should happen to protect the Cuban people.

Eric Kulisch

Eric is the Supply Chain and Air Cargo Editor at FreightWaves. An award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering the logistics sector, Eric spent nearly two years as the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Automotive News, where he focused on regulatory and policy issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, mobility, fuel economy and safety. He has won two regional Gold Medals from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for government coverage and news analysis, and was voted best for feature writing and commentary in the Trade/Newsletter category by the D.C. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. As associate editor at American Shipper Magazine for more than a decade, he wrote about trade, freight transportation and supply chains. Eric is based in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached for comments and tips at