Cuba Sanctions 2023: Business Aviation Destination Guide

PT 2 M minute read

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.

The U.S. Department of Commerce through its Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”) and the U.S. Department of Treasury through its Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) have issued updated U.S. sanctions rules applicable to Cuba, published in the Federal Register and effective June 5, 2019.

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

How the Sanctions Impact Business Aviation

General aviation N-registered aircraft operating under FAA Part 91 are no longer authorized to travel to Cuba, directly or indirectly, from the U.S. or another country. N-registered private and corporate aircraft in general aviation are no longer eligible for the license exception AVS to Cuba, and a Temporary Sojourn license will be required from BIS for travel to the country.

However, and most importantly, the final rule states “such licenses will be issued only in extraordinary circumstances. Thus, non-commercial aircraft and non-cargo vessels generally will be prohibited from going to Cuba.”

Ending Group People-to-People Travel

In accordance with the newly announced changes to non-family travel to Cuba, OFAC is amending the regulations to remove the authorization for group people-to-people educational travel. OFAC’s regulatory changes include a “grandfathering” provision, which provides that certain group people-to-people educational travel that previously was authorized will continue to be authorized where the traveler had already completed at least one travel-related transaction (such as purchasing a flight or reserving accommodation) prior to June 4, 2019.

Note: This applies to people only and does not apply to the aircraft – which would not be authorized to travel without a Temporary Sojourn license from BIS.

Ending Exports of Passenger Vessels, Recreational Vessels, and Private Aircraft

BIS, in coordination with OFAC, is amending its EAR to make passenger and recreational vessels and private and corporate aircraft ineligible for license exception and to establish a general policy of denial for license applications involving those vessels and aircraft.

Scheduled and chartered flights can still operate with BIS license exception AVS

A company that has an Air Carrier Operating Certificate issued under Part 135 and is considered a commercial operator and remains eligible to conduct operations to Cuba under the BIS license exception AVS (meaning that a separate BIS license is not required).

Note: Passengers on Part 135 operated aircraft must comply with OFAC’s travel restrictions and must fall into one of the following 12 categories of authorized travelers to Cuba:

  1. Family visit
  2. Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations
  3. Journalistic activity
  4. Professional research and professional meetings
  5. Educational activities (as noted herein)
  6. Religious activities
  7. Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions
  8. Support of the Cuban people
  9. Humanitarian projects
  10. Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes
  11. Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or informational materials
  12. Certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization under existing Department of Commerce regulations and guidelines with respect to Cuba or engaged in by U.S.-owned or –controlled foreign firms

Air Ambulance Flights

The AVS exception is still available for air ambulance services to Cuba.


Cuba is a comprehensively sanctioned country.  To minimize risk, it is recommended to always be diligent and check with your legal department or trade counsel when planning a trip to Cuba and to plan early.

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