Business Aviation Ops Update for Cuba: Part 2 – Visas, Support Services & Credit

> | July 6, 2016 | 0 Comments
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Business Aviation Ops Update for Cuba: Part 2 - Visas, Support Services & Credit

Please note that this article and the materials available herein are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain legal advice before operating to Cuba.

This business aviation blog post continues from our article last week, entitled “Business Aviation Ops Update for Cuba: Part 1 – Regulatory Considerations.

While general aviation (GA) operations to Cuba can often be coordinated and set up fairly quickly, it’s important not to overlook any required trip planning or day of operation details. This includes obtaining visas, keeping detailed records of your activities in Cuba and making advance credit arrangements.

The following is an overview of what you need to know:

1. Visa and insurance requirements

Although passengers and crew can obtain Cuban visas on arrival, this is not recommended as it causes delays, and your local contact/sponsor may need to come to the airport. If you decide to still go this route, you’ll need to send the request to your ground handler in advance. However, we strongly recommend that passengers and crew obtain visas prior to travel to Cuba. Also, be mindful that all onboard must obtain personal insurance when travelling to Cuba. Your ground handler can assist with coordinating this insurance coverage.

2. Maintaining records of your trip

For all U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba, a specific license from the U.S. Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) or a general license is required and you must keep detailed records of your stay in the country. There have been cases where U.S. authorities ask to review these records upon your return to the U.S., to ensure the trip was for compliant purposes. For this reason, it’s always best to keep a daily activity journal while in Cuba.

3. Credit and communication in Cuba

Foreign credit cards are still not widely accepted in Cuba, even at many hotels, and ATMs do not yet exist. It’s recommended that operators carry cash and convert this into Cuban pesos upon arrival. In some cases, you may be able to obtain local cash by taking your ATM card to a local merchant and having the transaction processed manually. We expect the credit situation in Cuba to improve over time, but at this point having cash on hand is recommended. Note that U.S. cell phones usually don’t work in Cuba. However, you may purchase a local SIM card on arrival to use with your phone, and your ground handler can arrange this.

4. AOG situations

It’s important to have contingency plans in the event your aircraft has a mechanical breakdown in Cuba. While it will not be an issue importing most replacement parts, certain items considered to have higher technological value will require a special license to bring in. Best procedure, in the event of an aircraft on ground (AOG), is to contact BIS to determine if you’ll require a temporary sojourn license for the part(s). Flying in a professional aviation maintenance technician should not be problematic as they’ll likely be able to come in on the same sort of general license as the crew. Still, it’s always important to confirm available options in advance.

5. Support services

Ground handling services, infrastructure and ground support equipment (GSE) availability are generally good at Cuban airports of entry (AOEs). As credit may be an issue for airport fees, handling and fuel uplifts, it’s always important to confirm credit arrangements prior to travel. Note that only limited in-flight catering options are possible in Cuba and advance notification is needed for such arrangements. Many operators choose to fly in all or most of their catering requirements for the return flight. However, be mindful that unless the onboard catering is pre-packaged or properly sealed there may be issues in taking it off the aircraft in Cuba.

Conclusion

Handling and support services at Cuban AOEs are of adequate standards, and we’ve run across very few issues with GA ops to Cuba. It’s best to ensure that you obtain a visa in advance to avoid delays on arrival, and it’s important to consider that you will need insurance for each person onboard when traveling to this country.

Questions?

If you have any questions about this article or would like assistance planning your next trip to Cuba, contact me at keithforeman@univ-wea.com.

Please note that this article and the materials available herein are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain legal advice before operating to Cuba.

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With more than two decades of experience at Universal and even more as an air traffic controller in the United States Air Force, Master Trip Owner Keith Foreman has extensive experience in business aviation operations. Keith, who has facilitated more than 19,000 trip legs, is also an expert on the Middle East, having lived in the region for several years. Keith’s reputation and knowledge have earned the praise of industry associations such as the National Business Aviation Association, where he is regularly asked to give presentations on regional operational issues in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. Keith, who has an associate’s degree in aeronautical science, is also frequently interviewed in a variety of industry publications both domestically and internationally. Keith can be reached at keithforeman@univ-wea.com.

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