By Ben Mutzabaugh | USA TODAY

Comments by Havana Journal Publisher in bold

A United Airlines flight from Washington Dulles with 135 passengers landed in Havana, Cuba, on Sunday.

United Flight 831 was bound for the Mexican beach resort of Cancun, but diverted to the Cuban capital after the flight crew detected “a strange odor” in the cockpit, The Associated Press reports.

“In an abundance of caution, the pilots decided to land the aircraft at the nearest available airport,” United spokesman Charles Hobart says in a statement to AP.

Interesting. I would not think that Havana is on the route between Washington DC and Cancun. Perhaps the flight was already past New Orleans? If that was the case, then I would think Cancun would be closer than Havana. Also, wouldn’t United need special permission from the US AND Cuban governments to even ENTER Cuban airspace?

No way that the pilots could get clearance from US AND Cuban governments within minutes of detecting an order.

Something stinks here and it’s not just the airplane.

United adds to The Washington Post that the Airbus A320 “landed routinely and safely in Havana and we have reaccommodated our customers on a different flight.”

CNN reports United had to bring in another plane to accommodate the passengers from the diverted flight. The Post says the A320 operating Flight 831 landed in Havana just after noon local time and was on the ground at least through 5 p.m.

United would have to violate the US Embargo in order to bring in another airplane. So (unless there is some fine print about emergency landings) United will either have to pay a large fine to OFAC for one or both of these flights AND/OR one or both of the planes will be restricted from coming back to the US. Am I wrong here?

There is more to this story than I am reading here.

Regularly scheduled commercial airline flights are not permitted to fly between the U.S. and Cuba, per the U.S. trade embargo on the island nation. Certain charter flights are permitted to fly between the nations, though there are restrictions on who can purchase travel on those flights.

AP adds “although the United States and Cuba are bitter Cold War foes (I would say bitter cold war foes, just that the US has a stupid Cuba policy), Cuba has a tradition of hospitality and is a signatory to international aviation accords.

Maybe this is how United was able to fly TWO planes into Cuba on one day… because of some emergency landing loophole.

On the day of the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington, Havana offered to let the United States use its landing fields because U.S. airports were in a state of chaos. Washington did not take Cuba up on the offer.”

Because President Bush was a terrible President who knew nothing about Cuba.

Martin Weil from the Washington Post writes:

It was not clear Sunday night how common such incidents are. “I don’t think it’s very common,” said Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Les Dorr.

The United States and Cuba do not have full diplomatic relations. However, Dorr said said that under the agency’s regulations, an airline captain “has the authority to do whatever is necessary for the safety of the flight.”

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