By TED JACKOVICS | The Tampa Tribune
Tampa International Airport could become the fourth U.S. airport to serve U.S.-Cuba charter flights under a request by U.S. Rep Kathy Castor, D-Tampa.
In a Feb. 3 letter to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Castor said the move would improve travel prospects for thousands of Bay area Cuban-Americans.
Those who qualify under U.S. restrictions to visit Cuba from the United States must fly from Miami, New York or Los Angeles.
Castor said she has called on President Obama to fulfill his campaign promise to lift travel restrictions on Cuban-Americans wishing to visit family members in Cuba.
“With this anticipated move, the number of U.S. travelers to Cuba is expected to nearly triple from the current 10,000 per month to nearly 30,000 per month,” Castor wrote.
That would increase direct air charter flights from the United States to Cuba from three to about eight to 10 a day, she said.
“In their quest to travel to Cuba to say goodbye or comfort a loved one, they are subjected to the worst kind of bureaucratic red tape because of the restrictions,” Castor wrote. “The addition of Tampa International Airport as a departure point could be one less burden the families would have to face.”
The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday approved language that would allow Cuban-Americans to visit relatives on the island more frequently and also ease some restrictions on trade with Cuba.
Under one of the measure’s provisions, family members could visit Cuba once a year rather than once every three years.