US airlines plan next move after Trump announces new policy toward Cuba

For U.S.-based airlines, the coming months will be a wait-and-see game after President Donald Trump announced a new policy toward Cuba that some argue might hinder American travel to the island nation.

The U.S. is now the largest when it comes to capacity into Cuba, offering close to 27,000 seats.

Canada comes in second place with about 17,000 seats.

The top five are rounded out by Mexico, Panama and France.

“A lot got these wrong. A lot felt that the demand to fly into Cuba would be a lot stronger it has actually turned out to be,” Richard Maslen said.

Maslen works for CAPA Centre for Aviation, an organization that delivers market analysis.

He said while several U.S. airlines have already cut back on service to Cuba, several have completely stopped flying to Cuba.

He said Trump’s new policy could likely help with that trend.

“It’s a supply and demand balance, and at the moment, the demand isn’t there,” Maslen said.

While U.S.-based airlines remain on a holding pattern, a new Spanish airline announced that it will start flying to Cuba.

The airline, Plus Ultra, will have a direct flight from Barcelona to Havana, with the inaugural trip scheduled for July 1.

Analysts believe nothing will change in the short term.

The market will continue to be the driving force for airlines in both Europe and America, but U.S.-based airlines are likely already analyzing numbers on daily flights to Cuba.

“I think what you may see is if one airline starts to make some cuts, then others may follow suit,” Maslen said.

If that’s the case, ticket prices to Cuba are expected to go up.

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Xi Jinping to visit Hong Kong for 20th anniversary of handover

Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit Hong Kong for the 20th anniversary of the city’s handover to Chinese sovereignty, according to Chinese state news agency Xinhua.

Xi will visit Hong Kong between June 29 and July 1. It will be his first visit to the territory as Chinese leader, and is expected to be marked by massive protests.

During his time in the city, Xi will inspect People’s Liberation Army troops at their garrison, visit a Chinese-Hong Kong construction project, and swear in Carrie Lam as the next Hong Kong Chief Executive.

He will also attend a major gala celebration to mark 20 years since China assumed control over the city.

Heightened security

Xi’s visit is expected to be accompanied by a massive security operation, with parts of the city put into lockdown to ensure protesters cannot get to the Chinese leader.

Hong Kong police have been drilling with their counterparts from Guangdong, across the border in China, for months.

According to the Ming Pao newspaper, front line officers have been told to block “sensitive images and words” from appearing in Xi’s line of sight during events, such as signs referencing the Tiananmen Square massacre or expressing a desire for “genuine universal suffrage.”

During a visit by Zhang Dejiang, China’s third most senior government official, to Hong Kong last year, police glued down sidewalks and erected huge barriers to prevent the public getting anywhere near Zhang.

A spokeswoman for Demosisto, the party founded by pro-democracy protesters Joshua Wong and Nathan Law, said they expected the police presence would be even heavier for Xi’s visit.

She said the group was “alarmed” by reports about preventing certain protest materials. “Freedom of speech and political expression is enshrined in Basic Law,” she added, referring to Hong Kong’s mini-constitution.

Protests and marches

Thousands of Hong Kongers are expected to take to the streets during Xi’s visit, particularly on July 1, the date of handover celebrations and a traditional day of protest in the city.

However, an annual pro-democracy rally was denied use of its usual staging ground in Victoria Park, in the heart of the city. The space has instead been promised to a pro-Beijing organization, the Hong Kong Celebrations Association, that will hold a handover commemoration event in the park, local media reported.

While the march will still go ahead, organizers said this was an attempt to crush dissent ahead of Xi’s visit.

“The Chinese regime is trying to squeeze out the space that we have in Hong Kong and is a threat to our freedom and democracy,” said Lee Cheuk-yan, a longtime pro-democracy activist.

Earlier this year, Joshua Wong told CNN Xi’s visit would be a “critical moment to organize civil disobedience and to voice our demand for democracy and human rights.”

In a statement, Law said Friday that Demosisto would use the anniversary of handover to “expose the facade of the celebrations for a peaceful China and the happy return of Hong Kong to the ‘motherland’.”

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China landslide: Desperate search for survivors continues

Thousands of rescuers are searching through rubble to find 93 people missing after a landslide devastated their village in Sichuan province, southwestern China.

Dozens of homes were buried when the landslide hit Xinmo village in Mao County, Aba Prefecture Saturday morning.

According to the Mao County Government Press Office 10 bodies had been recovered since the beginning of the rescue operation on Saturday. The local government told CNN 93 people were still unaccounted for and 15 people thought to have died had been subsequently found safe.

Those earlier reported missing range from an 80-year-old man to a girl aged just two and a half, according to a list released by Aba Prefecture’s government, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Rescuers using life-detection equipment worked through the night to try to locate survivors, state news outlets reported Sunday, citing emergency officials.

More than 2,500 professional search and rescue workers are operating at the scene, Sichuan provincial television reported.

‘Maximum efforts’

Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for “all-out efforts” to save those who were buried. “Authorities must make maximum efforts to reduce casualties and prevent secondary disasters,” he said.

Authorities launched the highest level of disaster response. Relatives of the missing and those suffering losses in the disaster will be given appropriate care, Xi said.

Heavy rainfall is thought to be a possible cause of landslide, which happened about 6 a.m. local time Saturday, according to the provincial government’s Land and Resources Department.

A smaller second landslide caused huge rocks to fall onto the village, which made it more difficult for heavy machinery to get to the scene, police team leader Wang Yongbo told CCTV.

Couple and infant emerge alive

A family of three emerged alive from the rubble Saturday, the Mao County government said on its official Weibo page. The couple and their baby were being treated at the Mao County People’s Hospital, the post said.

Qiao Dashuai, whose infant is 1 month old, said he heard a loud sound and tried to close the door to his house against the wind, he told CCTV.

“I ran outside and felt this strong wind and saw water rushing towards us,” he said. “A rock fell into our living room. We slowly crawled out while holding our baby and escaped. People from a neighboring village gave the baby a bath, and looked for clothes for us and the baby. As we went to the crossroads, we saw an ambulance. The ambulance sent us to Mao County (Hospital).”

“Now we just have external wounds, and there aren’t any major problems. But my heart feels uncomfortable,” he said.

The landslide happened at a high part of a mountain and fell onto the village, blocking a 2-kilometer (1.25-mile) section of a river, Xinhua reported.

Landslide’s cause under review

Landslides’ causes are complicated and could include rain and unstable rock masses, an official from China’s Ministry of Land and Resources told CCTV.

“In this landslide, we feel that it is also because the whole mountain structure in Sichuan has become loosened following the earthquake on May 12, 2008. There is a drop in the ‘dynamic properties,’ and its stability has also decreased. The recent rainfall has triggered the landslide,” Tian Yanshan said.

“Earthquakes, mining activities — many man-made and natural activities can possibly trigger landslides. When the stability of the mountain structure has reached its maximum, any triggering factor could lead to landslides,” Tian said.

Mountainous Sichuan province has a history of landslides triggered by flooding and earthquakes. In 1933, 6,800 people died in landslides triggered by an earthquake and 2,500 more were killed when one of the landslides caused a dam to fail.

UN condolences

UN Secretary-General António Guterres issued a statement through his spokesperson saying he is saddened about the deaths and devastation from the landslide.

“The secretary-general salutes the efforts of the national relief and recovery teams. The United Nations stands ready to support the authorities in any way it can if needed,” the statement reads.

“The secretary-general extends his condolences to the people and government of the People’s Republic of China and wishes those injured a speedy recovery.”

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