The U.S. Transportation Department has issued a long-awaited decision awarding U.S. airlines new route authority to fly to Cuba, but it left out one major destination.
Several U.S. carriers had applied for as much route authority as they thought they could handle, anticipating a boom in U.S. travel to the island nation following the Obama Administration’s decision to open up relations with Cuba. In its decision Friday, DOT gave its approval to six U.S. carriers, five U.S. cities and nine Cuban destinations for new air service beginning as soon as this fall.
But the Cuban capital of Havana was not among the cities listed. And Havana is the big prize.
The U.S.-Cuba aviation pact provides for each country to operate up to 10 daily roundtrips between the U.S. and Cuba’s nine airports other than Havana, or a maximum total of 90 flights a day. Over the longer term, it also allows up to 20 daily roundtrips between the U.S. and Havana.
DOT said the requests it received from U.S carriers for Havana rights totaled almost 60 flights a day – too many to sort through for the initial route awards. “A decision on the Havana routes will be announced later this summer,” DOT said.
In its initial decision, DOT designated Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Chicago, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Philadelphia for scheduled service to the Cuban cities of Camaguey, Cayo Coco, Cayo Largo, Cienfuegos, Holguin, Manzanillo, Matanzas, Santa Clara and Santiago de Cuba. U.S. carriers winning route authority included American, Frontier, JetBlue, Silver Airways, Southwest and Sun Country.
Notably absent from this list: Delta and United, which we expect to be on the list for Havana flights.
In the wake of DOT’s announcement, American Airlines said it expects to begin scheduled flights in September from its Miami hub to five of the destinations, while JetBlue plans to launch service to three Cuban destinations from Ft. Lauderdale.
As of now, there is still no word on how much it might cost jump on a commercial flight to Cuba. Flights on the current charter flights are in the $500 range, roundtrip.
While most Caribbean islands have just one international airport, Cuba is a much larger place – it’s 750 miles long, with a population of 11 million – and has built up some tourism infrastructure over the years, mostly accommodating visitors from Canada and Europe.
Are you planning to visit Cuba in the next year? Why or why not? Please leave your comments below.
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