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Flights to Havana Take Off, Despite Trump Threats

Since the first steps in normalizing relations between the U.S. and Cuba two years ago, interest in visiting the island nation has swelled, culminating in the resumption, after 50 years, of commercial air service by American carriers, beginning with JetBlue’s launch of service between Ft. Lauderdale and Santa Clara, Cuba, on August 31.

Other airlines have since begun Cuba service as well, and still others are keen to do so. But a newly unpredictable political climate in the U.S. is casting a pall over that progress and indeed the future of U.S.-Cuba relations altogether.

President-elect Donald Trump has made no secret of his distrust of Cuba, or of his disdain for President Obama’s current policy of reconciling with the U.S.’s Cold War adversary. As recently as this Monday, he tweeted this ultimatum: “If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate deal.”

Notwithstanding the uncertainty generated by the new administration’s confrontational stance on continued bilateral relations, this week saw the relaunch of scheduled service to Cuba’s capital, Havana, for the first time in five decades. On Monday, during the official nine-day mourning period for longtime leader Fidel Castro, American began service from Miami to Havana, and plans to fly to Havana from Charlotte beginning Wednesday. United launched its new Havana service, from Newark, on Tuesday.

It remains to be seen how serious Trump is about scuttling the diplomatic rapprochement with Cuba, and what effect such a rollback would have on the air services now approved and in place between the two countries. But if Cuba were on my bucket list, I’d take that trip sooner rather than later.

Reader Reality Check

What’s your prediction for the future of U.S.-Cuba relations?

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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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