Last week, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) approved a number of airlines to commence regular commercial service to Cuba in most of the island nation’s regional hubs – but excluded Havana from approval until later this year.
Airlines must now wait for final approval from Cuba. All existing charter flights will continue on an unlimited basis.
The carriers that have been approved are American Airlines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Silver Airways, Southwest Airlines and Sun Country Airlines.
Flights to Cuba from Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Chicago, Philadelphia and Minneapolis/St. Paul will begin as early as this fall. Tampa was not included in the round of approvals.
American Airlines received the approval of service from its hub in Miami and five cities in the island – Camaguey, Cienfuegos, Holguin, Santa Clara and Varadero. In a press statement, the airline announced the beginning of flights in September, and will be American’s first-ever scheduled service to Cuba.
According to the DOT order, American is approved to operate two daily flights between Miami and Holguin, Santa Clara and Varadero, and one daily flight between Miami and Camaguey and Cienfuegos. The Holguin and Santa Clara flights will be operated on a Boeing 737-800, and the Camaguey, Cienfuegos and Varadero flights will be operated on an Airbus A319.
Today, US charter flights pay Cuba landing fees of $73 to $148 per passenger, based on passenger age and whether passengers are traveling as individuals or as part of a tour group.
Cuba’s international landing fee in Havana’s is $4.89 per metric ton of aircraft. Charter flights typically use a 162-seat Boeing 737-800 with a maximum take-off weight of 79 metric tons — for a landing fee of about $390.
In February, US and Cuban governments signed a non-binding aviation arrangement that allows U.S.-based commercial flights to land and sets certain guidelines — including one prohibiting discriminatory fees.
In case you are fascinated by bi-lateral air transport agreements, here is the original one signed between Cuba and the US in 1953.