Direct flights to Cuba from various U.S. cities have begun.
These new flights are regular scheduled flights operated under a new agreement between the U.S. and Cuba. Previously, all flights from the U.S. to Cuba were considered “charter” flights. The charter flights have permission to continue flying but may decide to suspend service due to price competition.
Approvals for regular scheduled flights and routes to Cuba were separated by city. The first batch to receive approval were the non-Havana flights, the first of which was last week’s JetBlue flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Santa Clara.
And last week, Havana flights and routes were approved with service to begin before the end of the year. Some approved airlines are booking flights to Havana as of today.
For scheduled passenger service to and from each of the nine non-Havana international airports in Cuba, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) may allocate up to 10 daily round-trip frequencies at each airport, for a total of 90 daily flights. Including Havana, the total number of daily flights between the U.S. and Cuba can be 110.
DOT said its principal objective was, “to maximize public benefits, including choosing airlines that offered and could maintain the best service between the US and Havana.”
“[The] decision allocates nonstop Havana service to areas with substantial Cuban-American populations, as well as to several aviation hub cities,” DOT said.
UPDATE AS OF APRIL 2017: Frontier, Spirit and Silver have exited the Cuban market. JetBlue appears to be increasing Havana flights.
The airlines and routes to Havana approved by DOT are:
- Alaska Airlines, which will operate a 1X-daily flight from Los Angeles;
- American Airlines, which will operate 4X-daily service from Miami and a 1X-daily flight from Charlotte, North Carolina;
- Delta Air Lines, which will operate 1X-daily service to Havana from each of three cities: New York-JFK, Atlanta and Miami;
- Frontier Airlines, which will operate 1X-daily service from Miami;
- JetBlue Airways, which will operate 2X-daily service from Fort Lauderdale, Florida (excluding Saturday, which will be 1X-daily) and 1X-daily service from both New York-JFK and Orlando, Florida;
- Southwest Airlines, which will operate 2X-daily service from Fort Lauderdale and 1X-daily service from Tampa, Florida;
- Spirit Airlines, which will operate 2X-daily service from Fort Lauderdale; and
- United Airlines, which will operate 1X-daily service from Newark, New Jersey and 1X-weekly service (Saturday) from Houston.
Here are the non-Havana airlines and routes.
U.S. citizens are allowed to travel to Cuba only if they self-certify that their visit falls under one of 12 categories authorized by the US Department of the Treasury. Travel for “tourist activities” remains prohibited by statute. It is generally considered to be easy to comply with at least one of the 12 categories, including the “people-to-people” category, for cultural exchange.
Check out this little taste of Cuba: