Saturday, November 9, 2013

Key West-Cuba charter flights postponed

Ambitious plans announced last month by a Miami travel agency to offer small charter flights between Key West and Cuba beginning Nov. 15 have been pushed back to a Dec. 15 kick-off by Mambi International's partners at Air Marbrisa Airlines.

In a Wednesday e-mail to Peter Horton, the Monroe County airports director, Bob Curtis from Air Marbrisa said the delay is due to Mambi not yet having what's called a 380 certificate.

That document, provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation, establishes an operator, in this case Air Marbrisa, as a public charter based on specific regulations.

Mambi spokesman Isaac Valdes said he couldn't comment on the certificate but said flights will start Dec. 15.

But "if we performed the service [of using Key West International Airport to fly to and from Jose Marti International Airport now], we would be in violation" of federal rules, Curtis wrote to Horton. "I won't do that, therefore I have terminated any service for 30 days. It is our intent to begin the service on or around Dec. 15."

"Everything else remains the same," Curtis continued. "All our licenses and approvals are in place. We are delaying the service for 30 days so that when we do perform, we are performing in accordance with all regulations."

Last month, Horton cautioned that Mambi's plans may be overly ambitious and Curtis said the company announced the pending flights to the media prematurely.

The process of designating Key West International as an international point of entry began in 2009 with a request to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Following that was a three-phase, two-year, $2.25 million project to have the airport reclassified as a federal inspection station, instead of the current label of a general aviation facility.

Horton said the feds signed off on the upgrades in October 2011.

Flights are scheduled to leave Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays at 3:30 p.m., returning the following morning aboard a Metro II turboprop plane. The round trip is slated to cost $449 and each flight, lasting about 30 minutes. The plane can accommodate up to 10 people, including the pilot.

The last time planes regularly flew between Key West International and Jose Marti in Havana, just 90 miles from the Southernmost City, was in 1962.

Would-be visitors must obtain either a general or specific license from the U.S. Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Asset Control.


Source:  http://www.keysnet.com

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