A United Airlines flight from Washington Dulles to Cancun was diverted to Havana on Sunday when crew members reported a “strong odor” in the cabin.
Some later reported that a burning smell (Cuban cigars perhaps?) was emanating from the cockpit, but a United spokesman insisted that passengers were never in danger and the pilot diverted to the closest airport, Havana, purely as a precautionary measure.
The passengers were not allowed beyond passport control, but after sitting on the aircraft for a while were able to wait out the five hour delay (a new aircraft was flown in) in the special terminal at Jose Marti International Airport for USA Charter flights.
I got a kick out of the ending of the AP story:
Although the United States and Cuba are bitter Cold War foes, Cuba has a tradition of hospitality and is a signatory to international aviation accords.
On the day of the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington, Havana offered to let the United States use its landing fields because U.S. airports were in a state of chaos. Washington did not take Cuba up on the offer.
There are frequent charter flights back and forth between the two countries and a terminal in Havana is dedicated to receiving planes from the United States.
Let’s hope United Airlines and other U.S. carriers will be able to offer scheduled service to Cuba in the not too distant future…
Speaking of charter flights, nine more cities will add Cuba as a charter destination, as the travel restrictions to Cuba continue to be drawn back. The list includes:
- Fort Lauderdale
- New Orleans
- San Juan
This is in addition to Los Angeles, Miami, and New York that already offer charter service to Havana.
In the coming weeks, I plan to apply for a permit to visit Cuba the week after Christmas to conduct research on their aviation industry. I’ll keep you all informed on how I go about doing that and whether I am successful or not.