Air Nostrum (YW, Valencia Manises) has pitched the use of its aircraft to the Cuban government in order to allow Cubana (CU, Havana Int'l) to begin commercial services to the United States.

During a working visit to Havana last week, the Spanish carrier's president Carlos Bertomeu presented his proposal to the Cuban authorities under which Air Nostrum will operate flights from Cuba to the United States and other Caribbean islands using its aircraft.

Though US-Cuba relations have improved of late with several US carriers having resumed scheduled passenger flights to the Communist-run island, Cubana itself has been unable enter the market given the threat of seizure of its aircraft. As a state-owned entity, Cubana's assets could be seized to settle claims filed by US and Cuban citizens against the Cuban government for the expropriation of their property following the 1959 revolution that swept Fidel Castro to power.

As such Bertomeu's proposal, which has Iberia's blessing, involves a combination of wet-leasing and codesharing to help Cubana circumvent this threat.

"We have the experience and planes to operate at regional level," he was quoted by Levante news. "It is not easy. But short- and medium-haul is the ideal distance, from Cuba to Miami Int'l. The traffic's potential is huge."

The proposal could see the CRJ200, of which Air Nostrum operates ten, being deployed initially given it has already undergone certification with the Cuban Air Force.

Although it operates scheduled passenger services around Spain for Iberia under the Iberia Regional banner, Air Nostrum has begun exploring the Latin American market for new opportunities. Recently, it has been party to a number of ventures including Sol Líneas Aéreas (8R, Rosario, SF) in Argentina and Amaszonas Paraguay (ZP, Asuncion).