Cuba’s president Miguel Diaz-Canel has changed finance and transport ministers, appointing Eduardo Rodriguez for the latter role, Reuters reports. The change comes at a time when Cuba’s aviation sector is experiencing difficult times, reaching the peak in May 2018, when the crash of a leased Boeing 737 killed 112 people.   

On May 18, 2018, a Boeing 737 crashed shortly after take-off at José Martí International Airport (HAV), Havana. The aircraft, that was in service since 1979, was wet-leased from Mexican company Global Air and operated on behalf of Cuba’s national carrier – Cubana de Aviacion.  The investigation into the accident is still ongoing.

Read more: Cuba crash black boxes recovered intact

The tragedy overshadowed another major problem Cubana was dealing with at the time – a chronic lack of aircraft. At the beginning of May 2018, the country’s aviation authorities had grounded entire fleet of the carrier’s An-158 due to recurring maintenance problems and safety concerns.

Shortly after the events of May 2018, Cubana suspended “nearly all” domestic and all but two international flights (to Buenos Aires and Madrid, as reported by Reuters), sending the country’s aviation sector to halt. Cubana de Aviacion holds a monopoly of domestic flights in Cuba. The reason behind the suspension was reported as a lack of working aircraft and safety concerns over its fleet.

However, the situation got slightly better, as in October 2018, the airline announced it was resuming some domestic flights, using a fleet of ATR 72-500. In addition, the Cuban media reported in December 2018 that the airline was reinstating flights to Dominican Republic and Venezuela (halted in May 2018).

Cubana de Aviacion has a fleet of 16 aircraft, average age 10.5 years, according to planespotters.net data: six above mentioned Antonov An-158, two leased ATR 72-500, four Ilyushin Il 96-300 and same amount of Tupolev Tu-204. However, it is unclear how many of these aircraft are currently operational.