Exclusive: Beijing, Havana resume direct flights, to enhance connectivity between China and Caribbean region: envoy
Published: May 17, 2024 10:25 PM
China Cuba Photo: Xinhua

China Cuba Photo: Xinhua

The resumption of direct flights between China and Cuba is conducive to enhancing connectivity between China and the Caribbean region, and granting a visa-free policy for ordinary Chinese showed the trust between the two countries, which is also part of the implementation of the consensus reached by the two heads of state, Alberto Blanco Silva, Cuban Ambassador to China, told the Global Times in an exclusive interview on Friday. 

On Friday, an Air China Boeing 787-9 aircraft took off from Beijing Airport bound for Havana, opening a new chapter in bilateral relations between the two countries, the Cuban embassy said in a post on X platform. 

Starting with two flights per week, we hope to increase the frequency as passenger and air cargo traffic between the two countries grows, the Cuban ambassador said at a launch ceremony at the embassy on Friday. 

"I was pleased to notice that many ambassadors from Caribbean countries were extremely happy [about the resumption of flights]. They mentioned that if Air China can fly to Havana, it will make it much more convenient for them to travel to other Caribbean countries," Blanco Silva told the Global Times.  

There were no direct flights from China to Cuba until Air China resumed the Beijing-Madrid-Havana route, which is also the only direct route between China and Cuba, according to Shanghai Morning Post. The flight to Havana takes nearly 24 hours, at a price of over 8,000 yuan ($1,107), including a layover in Madrid.

Online travel searches for Cuba have skyrocketed after the country announced a visa-free policy for Chinese passport holders in early May. Meanwhile, travelling to Cuba has been trending among the top topics on Chinese social media platform Sina Weibo, reflecting the growing enthusiasm of Chinese netizens for the Caribbean country. 

The ambassador said he noticed this growing enthusiasm among Chinese netizens, and was excited about it. "The deep friendship between Cuba and China is everlasting and will be passed down from generation to generation," he said. 

Cuban Tourism Minister Juan Carlos Garcia announced a visa-free policy on May 4 local time starting this month for Chinese citizens holding ordinary passports, during the 42nd Cuban International Tourism Fair.

To deepen the cooperation in the tourism sector, the ambassador also announced on Friday that the Cuban Tourism Minister will begin his visit to China on May 26 where he is scheduled to attend an international travel fair in Shanghai and engage in direct exchanges with key departments and institutions in China's tourism and cultural sectors.

The resumption of direct flights between the two countries also showed that the implementation of the important consensus reached by the top leaders of the two countries. It is a part of the concrete actions aimed at building a China-Cuba community with a shared future, the ambassador said.   

"This has strengthened the necessary connectivity and promoted exchanges and people-to-people contacts between our two nations," he noted. 

The relationship between China and Cuba serves as a model for relations between large and small countries in terms of size and population, and all small countries can refer to the relationship between China and Cuba, which is also a model for socialist countries and for the relationship between Latin America and China, the ambassador told the Global Times. 

More Chinese tourists coming to visit Cuba will surely help to ease the pressure that the Caribbean country has been facing amid the unilateral economic blockade, he noted.