By MARK DINAN and JORDAN MALONEWASHINGTON (AP) When a flight leaves from JFK to Havana’s capital, the passengers have to sit in an uncomfortable row of seats with the crew, which is also the seat that might be used for a hostage-taking situation.
It’s one of many common challenges for the Obama administration to entice the Cuban government to release U.S. hostages in exchange for billions in aid from the U.N. and the European Union.
But for American Airlines, it’s a unique challenge.
The airline, which serves more than 1 million passengers a day, said it would be forced to put American passengers in the rows of seats in front of the crew in Havana on Sunday.
The Cuban government has not publicly released any information about the plane’s location, but it has been flying cargo planes from the United States to Havana.
American officials said the flight was carrying about a dozen people from the airport.
“We’re grateful that the American people will be able to enjoy the flight, but we also recognize that this is a complex situation and we need the cooperation of the Cuban authorities,” American Airlines spokeswoman Jennifer Coughlin said.
She said American would fly back to the United Kingdom, where the hostages are being held.
Cuban officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Cubans have accused American Airlines of staging the hostage-rescue flight.
The airline says it has no role in the rescue, but American says it did assist the Cuban rescue effort.
“The United States has been a partner to the Cuban people in the fight against terrorism for more than a decade, and our company has done everything we could to assist in the U:R rescue mission,” American said in a statement.
It’s the second time this year that the Cuban plane has been diverted to Havana because of the hostage crisis.
On Feb. 22, Cuban President Raul Castro and his wife, Rosalia Castro, boarded the plane from Havana to the U., where they were met by relatives of American hostages.
The Cuban government says they were killed.
American said in its statement that it has not been able to confirm whether the flight will depart from the terminal of the airport in Havana.
It has flown cargo planes and has flights to other cities, including to Europe, China and South Korea.