FedEx drops plans to serve Cuba, citing chilled U.S. relations

In another sign of cooling relations between the United States and Cuba, FedEx Corp. said yesterday that it will no longer pursue scheduled cargo service to the Caribbean island nation, ending a more-than-two-year effort to establish overnight courier service to the former Cold War adversary.

According to Bloomberg, FedEx issued a statement on Wednesday, saying that it “will not be filing for an extension of the startup date for U.S.-Cuba cargo air service” between Miami International (MIA) and Cuba, and is currently  evaluating “alternative all-cargo service options to Cuba.”

In 2016, FedEx was granted clearance from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to establish five-times-per-week freighter service between Miami and the Cuban city of Matanzas. FedEx was the first cargo carrier to secure these rights through the U.S. government since the Communist takeover of Cuba in 1959.

The DOT ruling, however, was made under the Obama administration, which had sought to normalize relations with Cuba. Since President Trump took office in January 2017, Cuban relations have soured sharply, requiring FedEx to file a series of six-month extensions for its scheduled start date, which originally was April 15, 2017. FedEx also said it had run into problems throughout 2017 and 2018 while negotiating with air cargo partners and ground handlers in Cuba.

Despite this week’s pullout by FedEx, several other carriers, such as American, Delta, JetBlue and United, have been given similar DOT approval since June to operate service to Cuban airports, such as José Martí International Airport (HAV) in Havana. So far only American Airlines has provided a tentative schedule of daily passenger, mail and parcel courier service between MIA and Antonio Maceo Airport (SCU) in the city Santiago de Cuba, starting in May, plus possible additional service to Cuba from Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT), in North Carolina.

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