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Cubana de Aviacion Yakovlev Yak-42, registration CU-T 1243, at Cancun International Airport, Mexico, on October 12th 2003
Cubana de Aviacion Yakovlev Yak-42, registration CU-T 1243, at Cancun International Airport, Mexico, on October 12th 2003

Cubana de Aviación is Cuba's domestic and international airline. Its base is the Jose Marti International Airport in Havana.


Code Data

  • IATA Code: CU
  • ICAO Code: CUB
  • Callsign: Cubana


Cubana traces its beginnings to 1929 when it started as Compañía Cubana Nacional de Aviación Curtiss, showing its association with the Curtiss plane-making company. In 1932, American airline Pan Am bought out Cubana, and the word Curtiss was omitted. Pan Am and Cubana continued their association until 1946, when the airline was taken over by Cuban interests and the word Nacional was dropped from the airline's name. That year, services to Miami were started using DC-3 airplanes. The Miami route, because of its political and economical significance, would later prove to be an important part of Cubana's history. In 1954, the air company became fully Cuban owned.

When Fidel Castro came into power, the airline was nationalised and stopped all United States routes, including the one to Miami International Airport. In 1959, it changed its name to Empresa Consolidada Cubana de Aviación, but the airline was still popularly known just as Cubana. With the US embargo, it had to turn to the Soviet Union to get its airplanes, and the first one to be obtained was the Il-14, just after the embargo began. Il-18, An-12 and An-24 soon followed. In 1974, with the arrival of the Il-62, Cubana was able to start services to Europe with flights to Barajas International Airport in Madrid.

During the 1980s, Cubana was one of a group of airlines waiting for a lifting of the US embargo since Miami is a city with a large Cuban community and also a potential money maker. This, however, did not happen, and Cubana is still eagerly awaiting this.

Upon the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Cubana was given license to buy jetliners from elsewhere, but still not those built in the United States. They acquired Airbus A320 equipment and leased a DC-10 from French airline AOM. That plane was lost in a crash at Guatemala City. Cubana also acquired Fokker F27 aircraft to reinforce its fleet.

Cubana's Soviet-built aircraft began to suffer from old age, and the fact that spare parts for those planes were hard to find, and partly because of that it suffered a series of fatal accidents during the 1990s. In 1999, it was voted worst airline of the world by top travelling magazines. Because of this dubious distinction, Cubana is trying to improve its image and purchase new Airbus jets.

Incidents and Accidents

On 6 October, 1976, terrorist sabotage brought down a Cubana DC-8 departing from Barbados to Cuba. Two bombs were put on by a terrorist organization of a CIA-linked Cuban exile, killing all 73 people on board. Among the dead were all the 24 young members of the Fencing team that had just obtained all the gold medals in the Central American and Caribbean Championship.

On July 11 of 1995, a Cubana de Aviación Antonov AN-24 crashed into the Caribbean off the southeastern coast of Cuba killing 44 people.

On April 1 of 2003, a AN-24 of Cubana was forced to fly to Key West, Florida by a man with hand grenades. The plane had to stop in Havana for refueling. In Havana, some of the 46 passengers in the plane escaped. The FBI awaited the plane at Key West.

CUBANA is expected to receive 2 Ilyushin 96-300 in 2005 to replace the aging Ilyushin 62s in their fleet.


It serves a network in the Caribbean, South America, Europe, and Central America as well as Mexico City, Toronto and Montreal in North America, also including domestic destinations.


The Cubana fleet includes 1 Airbus A320-200 (leased), Ilyushin IL-62, Yakolev 42 (at April 2005).

Other facts of interest

  • Cubana's planes often carry Cuba's national sports teams, even to United States territories.
  • In 1983, Cubana was prohibited from using United States air-space to operate their flights to Canada, after two of their jets overflew close to American military facilities during two consecutive days. Cubana was given US overflight permission in 1998 in a Bilateral Agreement.
  • Cubana also operates an air charter division.
  • Cubana is the only known major Latin American airline to have used Russian built airplanes, and it is the only Latin American airline with an established route to Moscow.
  • In The Godfather Part II when Michael Corleone abandons Havana he boards a Cubana plane.
  • Cubana's planes are often chartered by president Fidel Castro for official trips.

External Links

Lists of Aircraft | Aircraft manufacturers | Aircraft engines | Aircraft engine manufacturers

Airports | Airlines | Air forces | Aircraft weapons | Missiles | Timeline of aviation


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