Bunhill: High Havana hopes

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The Independent Online
LIKE death and taxes, there seems to be no escaping Richard Branson.

He crops up everywhere. Last week, he was opening his latest megastore under the Louvre in Paris. Even on Key West, the southernmost of the Florida Keys, his presence is unavoidable - in the form of the nasal whine of small aircraft doing loop-the-loops and other aeronatics.

Branson's Vintage Airways, offering 'flights of nostalgia', is proving tiresome to people who are trying to enjoy a peaceful sunset.

But he and other airlines are determined to make their noisy presence felt at the 'international airport' in Key West, where jets, apart from the tiniest executive planes, are outlawed. Why?

Cuba, as South Florida wisdom has it, is about to blow. True, they've been saying that for years. But with the island close to starving following the collapse of Russian subsidies, it finally looks like coming true. Already a heavyweight tome - Castro - the Final Hour - has appeared.

Which is where Branson et al fly in. Havana is a mere 90 miles from Key West. His flights of nostalgia could be a stepping stone to more long- distance, and more profitable adventures in the sky.

Not that he's the only one eyeing business opportunities in Cuba (population 10 million). The Miami Herald, owned by Knight-Ridder, has detailed plans for a Cuban newspaper once the ageing Fidel finally succumbs to option two of his motto, 'Socialism or death'.