Last month, the U.S. Transportation Department awarded U.S. carriers new route rights to serve secondary cities in Cuba, but not the biggest plum – Havana.
This week, DOT finally acted on all the requests it had from U.S. airlines to operate regular scheduled service to the Cuban capital, awarding Havana routes to eight airlines for flights that are likely to start sometime this fall.
The preliminary route awards are still subject a public comment period before being finalized. Tickets are not yet on sale, but should be later this summer. Right now, round trip charter flights from Miami to Havana are running at about $450 round trip, a price that we expect to drop significantly when competition cranks up in the fall.
The only Havana route from the West Coast went to Alaska Airlines, which will operate daily non-stops from Los Angeles using a two-class, 181-passenger 737-900ER. The flight will originate in Seattle, offering same-plane service top Cuba. Alaska said it expects to begin the service by year’s end. From LAX or SFO, current fares to Havana via Mexico City (Aeromexico) or Panama City (Copa) are about $625 round trip.
Most of the new routes will be from the eastern U.S., especially Florida. The exception to that rule was DOT’s selection of United to operate Houston-Havana flights, but only once a week. United will also operate daily non-stops to Havana from its Newark hub.
American Airlines will offer four daily roundtrips to Havana from Miami and one a day from Charlotte; Delta’s new route authority includes daily roundtrips to Havana from Atlanta, New York JFK and Miami; JetBlue won rights for two daily flights from Ft. Lauderdale and one each from New York JFK and Orlando; Southwest’s new route authority provides for two daily roundtrips from Ft. Lauderdale and one from Tampa; Spirit Airlines got two daily Ft. Lauderdale-Havana flights; and Frontier will be allowed a single daily flight from Miami to Havana.
Don’t miss: Cruising into Cuba: It’s complicated!
Technically, the U.S. still does not allow for simple tourist travel to Cuba; Americans who go there must fall into one of 12 categories approved by the government, including things like journalistic activity, professional research and meetings, educational activities and so on. Here’s a link to the Treasury Department’s rules for travel to Cuba.
Have you been to Cuba yet? Will you go in the near future? Why or why not? Please leave your comments below!
NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: How to get the BEST summer fare deals | One airline fee fading fast | Trip Report: Aer Lingus Economy Class | 5 top jobs for frequent travelers | First class phase out coming soon