Uncertainty surrounds charter flights from Pittsburgh to Cuba |

Uncertainty surrounds charter flights from Pittsburgh to Cuba

Theresa Clift

Plans to launch charter service between Pittsburgh International Airport and Cuba are on hold indefinitely, a spokesman said Monday.

Miami-based Choice Aire planned to start offering twice-weekly charter flights to Cuba by the end of last year, but those flights never got off the ground. Pittsburgh airport spokesman Bob Kerlik said he doesn’t expect them to do so this year, if at all.

“Charter flights to Cuba are still a focus, and we will continue to work on that, whether it’s with Choice Aire or another carrier,” Kerlik told the Tribune-Review.

After airports nationwide began offering regularly scheduled flights to Cuba last year, demand for charter flights waned, Kerlik said. A scaling-back of regularly scheduled service, however, could increase demand for charter flights, he said.

The airport received federal approval in 2011 to offer nonstop flights to Cuba.

A one-time-only charter went from Pittsburgh to Cuba last month, Kerlik said. It was the first to travel to the communist country from the Findlay facility. That flight, through Eastern Air Lines, contained local business people, Kerlik said.

News that the Cuba charter flights were on hold came as a disappointment to the University of Pittsburgh’s Study Abroad Office, which sends about 25 students to Cuba each year.

“It shouldn’t affect our study-abroad plans. It would’ve just been more convenient,” Jeff Whitehead, the office’s director, said.

Students fly to Miami, Fort Lauderdale or New York to catch connecting flights to Cuba for one-week trips during spring break or six-week visits during the summer, Whitehead said.

The airport will begin receiving charter flights from China this year through a Chinese tourism company, it announced last week. It will launch regularly scheduled service to Iceland and Germany in June.

Theresa Clift is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-5669 or [email protected]

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