By Alexander Britell
In an historic move, the US Department of Transportation has granted multiple commercial flight frequencies between the United States and Cuba.
The flights will be the first commercial flight service to Cuba from the US in more than a half century.
The DOT has approved six domestic airlines to begin scheduled flights from Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Chicago, Philadelphia and Minneapolis/St Paul to Cuba, beginning this fall.
The nine Cuban cities that will receive the flights are Camaguey, Cayo Coco, Cayo Largo, Cienfuegos, Holguin, Manzanillo, Matanzas, Santa Clara and Santiago de Cuba, although notably not yet Havana.
“Last year, President Obama announced that it was time to ‘begin a new journey’ with the Cuban people,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Today, we are delivering on his promise by re-launching scheduled air service to Cuba after more than half a century.”
The carriers that have been approved are American Airlines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Silver Airways, Southwest Airlines and Sun Country Airlines.
JetBlue said it intends to serve three Cuban cities from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport with daily flights: Santa Clara, Camaguey and Holguin.
The DOT is still considering applications for routes to Havana.
“Today’s news is historic on many fronts, especially for the families who, for the first time in generations, will have affordable award-winning air travel to visit their loved ones,” said Robin Hayes, president and chief executive officer, JetBlue. “We have been entrusted to put our mission of inspiring humanity to work. We are committed to providing those traveling to and from Cuba with the best customer experience – from the minute they book a flight until they arrive back home.”
Collectively, US carriers have requested nearly 60 flights per day to Havana, requiring the DOT to select from among the proposals.
A decision on Havana routes will be announced later this summer, the DOT said.