In the absence of a few months advance notice of a trip to Cuba, commercial (whether a Part 121 airline or a Part 135 charter operator) is your best option for air travel to and from Cuba. Part 91 operators of FAA-registered aircraft must apply for, and receive, a Temporary Sojourn License from the Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security ("BIS"); although likely to be more freely granted, issuance of a Temporary Sojourn License may not occur for two to six months following submission of the application.

As a general rule, passengers traveling to and from Cuba on FAA-registered aircraft must have U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Asset Control ("OFAC") authorization, except that the following categories of travelers to Cuba are generally authorized to travel for:

  • Family visits
  • Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments and certain intergovernmental organizations
  • Journalistic activity (with news organizations for freelance journalists)
  • Professional research and professional meetings
  • Educational activities (including people-to-people exchange trips)
  • Religious activities
  • Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions and exhibitions
  • Support for the Cuban people
  • Humanitarian projects
  • Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutions
  • Exportation, importation or transmission of information or informational materials
  • Travel related to export transactions authorized by BIS.

BEWARE, however, that most loan documents and leases expressly prohibit operations to Cuba (and, generically, countries with which the USA does not enjoy normal diplomatic relations). In addition, many insurance policies specifically exclude Cuba from permissible geographic areas of operation. As such, loan documents and insurance policies should be reviewed and amended or endorsed as necessary.

For more information, or for assistance in procuring the necessary authorizations for aircraft operations to and from Cuba, please contact Scott Burgess (954-763-5565, extension 208 / email: scottb@aviationlegalgroup.com).