Air France-KLM Opens New Office in Havana
By Leonel Nodal
The joint representation of Air France and KLM airlines inaugurated a brand-new office in the most important business center of Havana –the Miramar Trade Center- thus putting their smart money on the growth of the Cuban market that has jumped from one weekly flight in 1998 to two daily flights all week long fifteen years later.
Zoran Jelkic, general manager of AIR FRANCE-KLM for Latin America, the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean, presided over the ribbon-cutting ceremony, along with Mrs. Céline Balmelle, general manager of AIR FRANCE-KLM in Cuba, who has run operations for both companies in the capital since 2011.
It was on that date when both the French and Dutch airlines joined their operations with flights from Paris and Amsterdam to Cuba in a bid to get a bigger share of the European travel market in destination Cuba.
This is Air France’s fifth office in Havana in 15 years, and Air France-KLM’s second one, with more room to guarantee the development of the company in Cuba, Mr. Jelkic pointed out during his keynote speech to the attendees.
He particularly thanked the presence of the president of Cuba’s Civil Aeronautic Institute, Alfredo Cordero Puig, as well as the French ambassador to Cuba, Jean Mendelson, and the councilor of Dutch embassy, Mrs. Johanneke de Hoogh, as he invited then cut the inaugural ribbon.
A small exhibition on the 80th anniversary of Air France was opened within the framework of this event.
“We have reached our goal of having two daily flights from Havana to Europe, which means that both companies total a weekly offer of 5,820 seats,” Mrs. Balmelle told Caribbean News Digital (CND).
The new facilities are nestled in the Santiago de Cuba Building, within the strategically positioned Miramar Trade Center, a functional cluster of state-of-the-art buildings, right in the area where most diplomatic missions, hotels and foreign and Cuban companies are headquartered, a position that favors access and sales management for clients.
The increase of operational facilities of Air France-KLM is meant to be significant this year, when France will be the guest country during the International Tourism Fair (FitCuba), scheduled to take place in early May in Havana. A large group of tour operators and travel agents from that European country are expected to attend as one of the island’s biggest tourism outbound markets.
Russian Airline Transaero Launches New Service to Varadero, Cuba
A Boeing 767 from the Russian Airline “Transaero” carrying 200 passengers on Monday arrived at the Varadero Airport, 90 miles east from Havana, a Cuba’s tourism official said on Monday.
The Russian airliner will send visitors twice a week to the Varadero Resort, said Ramon Fundora, a specialist from the Ministry of Tourism. The flight also marks the resumption of Moscow-Caradero airline.
The travels are coordinated by the UkranianTour Operators Lanta Tour and Coral Travel, and the Russian Havanaturrussia, said Fundora. He added that last week the Brazilian airline Wets Jets also started direct flight to Varadero.
Cuba has seen an increase in its tourist arrival this year despite the global financial crisis. While fewer tourists visited Cuba from major tourist source countries like France and Spain, the opening of new markets such as Venezuela and Russia, has helped raise the total figure.
Some new airline companies started direct flights to the island, especially those from Mexico, Japan, Russia and Brazil. The Cuban tourism authorities have also launched a promotion campaign entitled “Authentic Cuba” in Europe to open up new market.