Icelandic Connects the US and Cuba, with a Catch
Icelandair is known for connecting North America and Europe through its home country of Iceland. But a new route could see the flag carrier from the Land of Fire and Ice take passengers between Cuba and both Florida and Texas.
On January 13, the US Department of Transportation approved an application by Icelandair to fly 170 round-trip charter flights between Havana and the US cities of Miami, Orlando, and Houston.
The average American won't be able to simply buy a ticket on one of the flights as the US government limits the types of travel to Cuba that US citizens are permitted to do, the Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control said, owing to continuing sanctions.
US and foreign airlines can bid to operate flights between the US and Cuba under the DOT's public charter system for flights to Cuba, which allows 3,600 annual flights to operate from the US. But Icelandair's request to fly between two countries that aren't its homeland did not come without objection from US airlines.
Swift Air, World Atlantic Airlines, and Global Crossing Airlines — three US airlines that primarily offer charter services using passenger airliners — strongly objected to Icelandair's entry into the market.
"Icelandair's primary reason for seeking approval on an additional 170 flights over a four-month period is to impose an economic hardship on the current US air carriers," Mark Schneider, an attorney for Global Crossing Airlines, wrote to the DOT. Icelandair responded to Global Crossing and Swift Air by saying it wasn't taking slots away from any carriers, and that its charter partner had already ruled out other US carriers.
"With no other applications for allotment from the pool before the Department, Icelandair fails to understand how it is taking any market share to the detriment of US based carriers," Jonathan Fuchs, Icelandair's general counsel for the Americas, wrote to the DOT.
Icelandair said its advantage over US carriers was in the baggage holds of its Boeing 757 aircraft. Even with Icelandair's relatively large aircraft, 54 bags had to be left behind because of space constraints on its first flight from Orlando to Havana. Icelandair plans to operate the 170 flights between February 1 and May 31.
Source: Business Insider