Maintaining International Links
Since the Castro revolution, Cubana has been an important,
even vital, element of Cuba’s economy. As an
island nation, politically ostracized by the United
States, and without close ties with most Latin American
countries, the national airline’s ability to
maintain overseas services was a critical lifeline.
The entire fleet (with the exception of some jets
leased for a short time during the 1970s form Air
Canada) was supplied from the Soviet Union. By the
late 1980s, this fleet consisted of 14 long-range
Ilyushin 62M jets, eight Tupolev Tu-154 medium-range
jets, thirty-eight Antonov An-24 and An-26 turboprops,
eight Yakovlev Yak-40 jets, plus two older Ilyushin
Il-18 turboprops and three Antonov An-2 biplanes.
Cubana also operated three Ilyushin Il-76 freighters.
Services abroad were augmented during the 1970s.
On 26 June 1971 Cubana began service to Santiago,
Chile (at that time under a Marxist government), via
Panama City and Lima, with Ilyushin Il-18s. On 24
April 1972 the fine Ilyushin Il-62 rear-engined jets
were put on the route to Madrid, via the Azores (fig. 31),
and on 3 April 1973, a route was established to Berlin,
East Germany. However, on 11 September 1973, the South
American service was curtailed to Lima, when Chile’s
President Salvador Allende was assassinated, but this
was compensated for in the following month by a service
to Georgetown, Guiana, via Bridgetown, Barbados and
Port of Spain, Trinidad.
International relations between Cuba and non-communist
foreign countries started to improve during the 1970s.
One result was that Cubana was able to operate non-Soviet
aircraft. In February 1976 it leased two Douglas DC-8s
from Air Canada (fig. 34).
Today, Cuba’s national airline is able to hold
its own in competition with foreign flag jet airlines.
It leased McDonnell Douglas DC-10s form a French airline
in the mid-1990s and now operates Airbus A 320s. Almost
two million tourists arrived in Cuba’s four
international air gateways in 1998, and Cubana carried
almost half of them.