Reports from Cuba: Cubana de Aviacion suspends domestic flights due to aircraft shortage

14yMedio reports from Havana via Translating Cuba:

Cubana de Aviacion Suspends Domestic Flights Due to Aircraft Shortage

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The six Antonov-158 aircraft that were purchased in 2012 are all on the ground due to lack of spare parts.

The Cuban airline Cubana de Aviación has suspended domestic flights “until further notice” due to lack of aircraft to cover its scheduled flights, as an information employee at Havana Airport’s Terminal 1 confirmed to 14ymedio on Wednesday.

“There are no planes,” said the worker, citing the reason for the suspension of all flights by the island’s main airline. Seats on the canceled flights were purchased by local residents using the national currency although “other airlines, such as Cubatur, are still providing service to tourists.”

Tickets purchased using the national currency are subsidized by the state with the requirement that a ticket be purchased up to three months in advance at the offices of the company located in the provincial capitals or in the main domestic destinations. Tickets on Cubatur can be purchased in Cuban pesos (CUP) when that airline has available seats.

The cancellations, which have not yet been reported in the national media or on the company’s website, is causing uncertainty among travelers who had tickets to fly on Cubana de Aviación in the coming weeks.

“The phones are ringing constantly because a lot of people found out through the internet and we are getting a lot of complaints. But we guarantee we are doing everything possible so that no customer is stranded,” says the company employee.

Authorities from the state-run company have devised a solution for transporting passengers that apparently involves “a bus, train or available space on another airline’s plane,” added the airport worker.

“I have a ticket for April 8 and, so far, I have not received any notice from Cubana de Aviación about a change in transport that I will have to use,” explains Ángel Collazo, a passenger who frequently makes the trip between Camagüey and Havana.

Although the airline does not often cancel all its domestic flights, partial cancellations are routine. “The last time I made this trip, I had to wait 12 hours at the airport until they transferred us to a bus,” Collazo recalls. “In all that time, they only gave us a small sandwich and a soda,” he says.

For several months, complaints have been growing about Cubana de Aviación operations due to ongoing delays and canceled flights. In 2016, more than 50% of the flights between Holguín and Havana were delayed according to reports from the Holguín press.

Company directors have stated that “technical problems with the aircraft” are the main causes of delays and suspended flights. When flights are cancelled, passengers are rerouted to buses and other means of transport.

In 2012 Cuba bought six Russian/Ukrainian-made Antonov-158 aircraft to modernize its national fleet. But a company employee who has requested anonymity told 14ymedio that the aircraft have presented successive “difficulties and problems in acquiring the spare parts.”

“The first problems occurred because the An-158 was purchased from Ukraine but the agreement for spare parts was signed with Russia. Shortly thereafter, the problem between the two countries began and that’s where we stand,” the source added. “Now everything is on hold.”

In 2017 a lease contract with the South African company Solenta Aviation was signed, adding two ATR 72-500 aircraft to the fleet. The aircraft were incorporated into domestic routes such as Baracoa, Holguín and Varadero, but tickets can only be purchased in hard currency.