American Airlines’ In-House Saboteurs


Sue Ashdown

Just when you thought you’d seen it all. Now the Miami Herald is complaining (again) about discrimination against Cuban Americans.  This time their target is not Carnival Cruise Line but American Airlines.  The reason?  A Cuban-born pilot flying for American arrived in Cuba without a Cuban passport and Cuba refused him entry.  The Herald is urging the airline to join its anti-Cuban offensive and “negotiate harder” with Cuba.

First of all, discrimination is a rich word coming from the Cuban Americans who’ve been its unique beneficiaries for so many years. When they were the only US citizens/residents granted legal cover to visit Cuba, the discrimination against their fellow (non-Cuban) Americans who were intimidated, harassed, prosecuted, and fined for doing the same was utterly uninteresting to them. Cuban Americans are still the only immigrants given a red carpet treatment and path to citizenship when they arrive in the US illegally. Where is the outrage?

But I digress.  Back to the Herald:

A Cuban-born crew member arrived without a Cuban passport — required for anyone born there who left the country after 1970, even as babies — and a brouhaha ensued with Cuban authorities on the ground. The crew member was not allowed entry, much less the required overnight rest stop after a crew member flies 12 hours.

Questions were posed by AA to authorities: What happens in the future if there’s a flight with a mechanical delay and the crew that includes a Cuban American is grounded overnight? What will happen, routinely, with the two Varadero flights that require the overnight stay of the crew?

The answer: Only in the most “extenuating circumstances” would Cuba allow an exception to its separate set of archaic travel requirements for Cuban Americans. No overnights for Cuban-American crew members. Period.

This is such a classic Miami setup, it’s painful to witness.

Why? Because all Cuban Americans know the deal where Cuba’s concerned. American Airlines might not have known it (although I have my doubts about that), but Cuban Americans understand it perfectly.  Without exception.

Here’s how Cuban immigration policy works: Anyone born in Cuba who has not renounced their Cuban citizenship will always be considered Cuban, and exclusively Cuban, the moment they arrive in Cuba. Regardless of any other citizenship they may have acquired elsewhere. Therefore they need a Cuban passport. Cuba does not recognize dual citizenship, but guess what? Neither does the United States!

I know the drill because my son has both passports. Once he’s on Cuban soil he is uniquely Cuban. His US passport is irrelevant. Once he is on US soil, the reverse is true. So trust me, the Cuban American pilot who pulled this stunt knew exactly what he was doing. So did his Cuban American bosses. Yet incredibly, they decided to plant a propaganda bomb inside the very airline they worked for, to see what kind of points they might score. It backfired, as it always does, because this is the gang that can’t shoot straight.

The Herald again:

Now the Dallas-based airline, which makes its schedules far from Cuban politics in Texas, had to identify Cuban-American employees and take them off Cuba flights that required an overnight stay.

You mean, the same way they were identified and assigned to the cockpit for the Cuba route in the first place?  Because the road to the captain’s chair doesn’t happen by accident.  It’s long and wildly expensive, and the average immigrant is never going to see the inside of a cockpit let alone command the yoke.  So let’s be honest: the percentage of Cuban Americans in the ranks of professional pilots flying for major airlines is microscopic.  As is the likelihood of being assigned a route based on ancestry rather than seniority.  But remember, as long as Cuban Americans benefit at the expense of others, that kind of discrimination is unmentionable.

“Please remember that those who are Cuban born should be removed with pay from Cuba flights until we can verify what requirements the Cuban government has for these crewmembers,” says an AA memo to managers that a source shared with [the Herald].

Here’s some free consulting advice for American. They don’t need to waste five more minutes verifying the Cuban government’s requirements for visitors holding Cuban citizenship.  I’ve just outlined them.  They’re the same for airline crews as they are for everyone else.  Cuban born pilots can do what every other ordinary mortal with Cuban citizenship does when they want to go to Cuba. They get a Cuban passport.  Problem solved.  No need to ground anybody.  Take all the overnights you want.  Seriously, it’s not that hard.

Another alternative is for them to formally renounce their Cuban citizenship and eliminate the “burden.”  You don’t like the rules, don’t play the game.

But they should forget about trying to pressure American Airlines to be their political proxy.

Can you imagine any foreign airline being pressured to negotiate US immigration policy with USCIS? Nobody would dare suggest such a thing. It’s absurd. But somehow because it’s Cuba, the Miami Herald thinks everything and anything is up for discussion and that American should do its bidding, no matter the business consequences.

So here’s my second bit of free consulting advice for American Airlines. If I were Doug Parker, I’d turn my attention another direction: toward identifying the people inside the company who are pushing this losing agenda. And I’d put them on notice. Because this kind of behavior demonstrates that these employees are not flying for American, they’re flying for somebody else.


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