Air China To Start Service Between Canada And Cuba?!

Filed Under: Air China, Other Airlines

This thread has a post about routes that Air China will apparently launch in 2015. This includes new longhaul and short-haul service out of Beijing, as well as new short-haul routes out of Hangzhou and Tianjin.

Air China 777-300ER

The new routes out of Beijing apparently include the following:

CA165/6 Beijing-Melbourne, start from 6-1, A330, 1/3/5/7
CA867/8 Beijing-Johannesburg, start from 6-19, B773, 1/3/5
CA879/80 Beijing-Montreal-Havana, start from 9-20, B773, 1/3/5
CA739/40 Beijing-Auckland, start from 10-25, A330, D
CA741/2 Beijing-Mumbai, start from 10-25, A330, 1/3/5/7
CA869/70 Beijing-Addis Ababa, start from 10-25, A330, 1/4/6

Now, most of that seems like pretty rational growth. Melbourne, Johannesburg, Auckland, Mumbai, and Addis Ababa all seem like no brainers, right? At the very least, you wouldn’t bat an eyelash if you heard any of those announced.

But what about that Beijing to Montreal to Havana route? I’d say that’s possibly the most interesting route announcement… ever?! Beijing to Montreal seems logical enough, but Montreal to Havana is just fascinating. While I love new routes out of hub cities, I love new fifth freedom routes even more.


Presumably Air China will have pick-up rights between Montreal and Havana. Could you imagine boarding an Air China 777 in Montreal in order to fly to Cuba?

Air China 777-300ER first class

Can’t wait to see the schedule on this flight.

This route is no doubt even cooler than Air China’s current coolest fifth freedom route, between Munich and Athens.


If/when I visit Cuba, I know how I’m getting there! Who’s with me?!

  1. Canada is the number one feeder of tourists into Cuba (for beach destinations, not cultural travel). China has a historical and cultural connection to Cuba through politics and economic trade. Makes sense to me, though I agree it’s not obvious at first.

  2. 13,000ft runway at HAV
    Multiple carriers operate widebodies to HAV already.

    Count me in for the inaugural flight.

  3. So how does it work with you going to Cuba as a dual citizen? I’m assuming you just enter Cuba with a German passport, (legal) but what happens on the American side where it is illegal. And knowing you are an avgeek, why would you fly the Air China 77W? Wouldn’t the Cubana IL-96 be more avgeeky? šŸ˜›

  4. Good article but just keep in mind that ICAO flight freedoms are only applicable to non scheduled flights only. Commercial scheduled flights like these still need governmental approval.

  5. Lucky, you are missing half the equation. I don’t think there is anywhere to earn and/or use Hyatt/Starwood/IHG/…. points in Havana once you get there. Until then, XXX-HAV is a non-starter for you!

  6. I flew Air China first class from Beijing to Houston and found it to be amazing. My wife and I had the entire first class cabin to ourselves with a flight attendant for each of us. The champagne flowed like….wine?

  7. Most interesting route announcement ever? What about Ethiopian Addis Ababa to Los Angeles via Dublin?

  8. I’m not so good on complicated travel stuff, but I do know a thing or two about the law.

    So, Lucky, please be very careful before going to Cuba. Travelling there is actually 100% legal for anyone; it’s spending money there, even a cent, that’s the problem. (The relevant restrictions are Treasury Department rules, after all, not State Department ones.) And you ARE a US citizen; the dual German thing isn’t relevant in this context. Put more simply, US citizens like you can’t spend money in Cuba without a license obtainable by, e.g., people on cultural tours or people with relatives there. There are many other categories, too. All this is also in flux, of course, and is changing practically daily.

    I even hear that brave folks just travel ex-Montreal or Mexico City, pay 100% in cash, and hope not to get caught. You blog. End of story for that tactic.

    I haven’t researched this at all recently, but I believe the above is still substantially right. Others can chime in if I’ve misstated something. My only point, really, is just to be very, very careful you’ve got the rules straight before going — all the rules.

  9. @ Josh — I think this one is a bit more outlandish. Ethiopian one is strange on one hand, but logical on the other. This just totally came out of left field, in my opinion.

  10. Surely if Lucky gets a non-US citizen *coughs* (me!) to fund any spend then he’ll stay the right side of the (outdated) law.

  11. Tom is correct. It does not matter whether one is a dual citizen or not, since one cannot “stop being American” for a week while in Cuba. American laws always apply to Americans. Outside of an official cultural exchange program or other blanket waivers (e.g. journalism, humanitarian, academic, etc.), it remains illegal to visit since visiting inherently involves spending money (e.g. visa on arrival fee). Having a non-American friend pay would work, either. Conceptually, it’s different than visiting countries where the restriction is imposed by foreign governments (e.g. different visa rates for different passports or different immigration policies), in which case you are free to use whichever passport is most advantageous.

  12. @Abdel Rahim Abdallah – Firstly, YUL-Cuba is a much larger market than YVR-Cuba. If Air China is indeed going to get fifth freedom rights from Canada to Cuba, Montreal makes the most sense.

    Second, PEK-YUL-HAV is shorter than PEK-YVR-HAV.

    Third, the aircraft used on this new route, the 77W, is too much metal for solely PEK-YUL. The current market between Montreal and Beijing is around 120 PDEW. The A332 would have been a better fit. The fact that they are putting the 77W on the route indicates, at least to me, that they are banking on the PEK-HAV and YUL-HAV traffic to fill the rest of the plane.

  13. @ High Class — Not really that unique of a route, in my opinion. Singapore does Sao Paulo to Barcelona, after all.

  14. Air China does Sao Paolo – Madrid which I thought it was an extreme use of the 5th freedom by Air China…. but Havana hahaha

  15. I’m a dual citizen, American born came to Canada as a teen with family. The law only restricts you when purchasing from a licensed American company selling tickets – but completely OK to buy from foreign companies, like ones based in Canada and Mexico. Companies here in Toronto advertise to those in Western New York to travel via YYZ. I actually talked to the embassy couple years ago when I was there for some paper work. Completely fine heading there on either passport as long as I’m flying from Canada – in fact some of them working there have done it too.

    I’ve never been to Cuba in my American passport only Canadian, so don’t know first hand if you have issues with American passport – but the Cubans don’t stamp so not like people state side will ever really know.

  16. @ Lucky — so with CA now offering routes to MEL and AKL they — theoretically — become another Star Alliance option for traveling to Aus/NZ, right? Per their site, IAH-PEK-MEL is possible but it’s a long journey (41 hours) and second flight is in 2-class A330 (2-2-2 in J).

  17. Booked my flight from YUL to HAV as soon as the booking opens in the airlines’ system. And even though I live in the states, being neither a US citizen nor a permanent resident means that US government cant do anything to me even if I visit Cuba on my Chinese passport :P. Could simply be like “yeah, I went to Cuba for my vacation, so what?” lol.

  18. Has anyone flown air China yet to Havanna. Do you know if they supply the tourist cards on the airline? When flying with Canadian Airlines like Westjet or Air Canada they do. Otherwise if you don’t live in or around Ottawa it can be a real hassle to get these tourist cards which are the visa.

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