Russia and Cuba have a long history of diplomatic relations and cooperation dating back to the Cold War.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Chernishenko announced on May 18, during his visit to Havana, that Moscow will resume flight connections to Cuba, starting July 1. The flights will depart from Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport to Kawama International Airport, serving Varadero, Cuba, with an estimate time per flight of 14 hours. The route is currently the only direct connection between Russia and Cuba.
Chernishenko said that by Vladimir Putin’s “presidential order” regular flights will be restored with Russia’s Aeroflot. As the service begins, Simple Flying reports that the Russian airline will operate two roundtrip flights weekly, on Thursdays and Saturdays. This will allow the airline to fly over 1,800 passengers each week. The Russian carrier is also planning to expand the weekly flights from two to three, beginning on September 5.
The new Aeroflot flight is set to be operated by Rossiya Airlines, which is part of the Aeroflot Group, and it will be flown by a Rossiya Boeing 777-300ER. The Rossiya aircraft has a capacity of 457 passengers, with 21 of those seats in business class and the remaining set in economy class.
Until now, the air service between the two countries had been limited by the international sanctions imposed on Moscow after its invasion of Ukraine. Travel had been restricted to the main tourist centers of the Island of high interest to Russian visitors, such as Varadero and Cayo Coco, with air services provided by Nordwind Airlines, since October 2022.
2. Surviving debts and sanctions
Aeroflot is the largest and flag carrier airline of Russia. It is one of the oldest airlines in the world, with its origins dating back to 1923. Controlled by the Kremlin, Aeroflot is now slowly rising from the ashes, surviving debts and sanctions, followed by the Covid-19 pandemic and more recently, by Western sanctions. The Russian government injected 2.7 billion dollars for the purchase of 5.4 billion shares, at the price of 34.29 rubles per title, the Havana Times reported. In 2022, it made more than 2,000 flights with expired parts due to supply problems because of Western sanctions, according to the Federal Transport Control Agency (Rostransnadzor).
3. Key partner
With the closure of airports in Europe, Aeroflot seeks to strengthen its presence in the markets of Asia and Africa. Chernishenko assured that Cuba is Russia’s key partner in the region and advocated for a greater development of bilateral economic relations in all areas, according to Cubadebate. The Cuban Minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment, Ricardo Cabrisas, told the press that both countries are working on 10 investment projects and are looking for Cuba to be the “bridge of union” between Russia and Latin America.