Air China’s Havana route: A flight of hope

By Daily Pérez Guillén

A joke reveals the hope with which the Caribbean country received the inaugural Air China flight that has reconnected Beijing and Havana since Friday. It was recalled by the Ambassador of the Asian country in Cuba, Ma Hui, in his remarks at the official welcoming ceremony. “Tourism Minister Garcia Granda commented to me that he is not an ambitious person, he only hopes that one percent of the Chinese population can come to Cuba, which means 10 million. I only hope that 0.01 percent can come every year. With this flight route, that would mean 140,000 passengers and we would begin to advance toward his challenge.”

“This is a practical measure for the recovery of tourism and in support of Cuba’s economy. It is a solid step for a community of the future,” the ambassador added, in agreement with expert analyses published by the press in the last few days.

Chinese Ambassador to Cuba, Ma Hui, and Cuban Prime Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz, welcome the Air China crew. Photo: TTC.

Cuban Prime Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz attended the welcome ceremony of the first flight at the José Martí International Airport. In his words of thanks, he recalled that achieving direct connectivity between China and the Caribbean island was a request made to President Xi Jinping during his visit to China last November, and is part of the strengthening of the historic relations between the two countries.

The ambassador also stressed that the resumption of flights and visa exemption greatly reduces the costs for Chinese citizens to undertake tourism in Cuba and Latin America. They will not require a transit visa in Madrid either, according to García Granda, as another of the great advantages of this flight route.

116 travelers arrived on board the inaugural Beijing-Madrid-Havana flight on May 17. Photo: TTC.

The start of the Air China route with a stopover in Madrid and two weekly frequencies also boosts interest in multi-destination tourism in the region, a topic mentioned by the Cuban Tourism minister in his welcome speech. García Granda also announced that work is underway to make a Union Pay system available soon through Fincimex to facilitate transactions for Chinese visitors to Cuba.

“We are witnessing the opening of a new chapter in air connectivity between the People’s Republic of China and the Caribbean and Latin American countries,” said Cuban Transport Minister Eduardo Rodríguez Dávila, noting that the Beijing-Madrid-Havana route is an excellent opportunity to connect to other countries in Asia and Europe.

Marrero Cruz thanked China for the start of direct flights between the two countries. Photo: TTC.

Terry Jiang, president of the Bellotour travel agency, arrived at the air terminal with hopes of the “good news” and to welcome his clients who arrived aboard the Boeing 787-9. “We are ready for them to learn about and enjoy Cuba, its culture and history. We will go to Viñales, Cienfuegos, Santa Clara, Varadero, so that the beaches of Cuba are better known in the world.”
Two potential travelers, Lin Hongfei and Wang Yan, told Xinhua news agency that they were looking forward to the launch of this first flight and hope to take advantage of it to have fun and investigate more about the local culture.