U.S. Airlines Preparing to Offer Flights to Cuba

The United States and Cuba agreed today to restore commercial flights between the two countries for the first time in more than a half century, and several United States airlines announced plans to request approval to begin flying.

American Airlines said in a release that it will submit a United States-Cuba service proposal to the U.S. Department of Transportation and wants to introduce flights as soon as possible in 2016, and in a media call on Thursday, Howard Kass, the airline’s vice president of regulatory affairs, said that the government is expected to approve 20 flights a day to Havana and 10 daily to each of the other Cuban cities.

He added that service from Miami will be a priority for the airline. “Miami is the center of the Cuban diaspora and a big market for us with our charter flights,” he said.

American has offered charters to Cuba since 1991 and will have operated approximately 1,200 such flights by the end of this year; it currently has flights from Miami, Tampa and Los Angeles to the Cuban cities of Camagüey, Cienfuegos, Havana, Holguin and Santa Clara.

JetBlue plans to apply for new routes after it has reviewed the terms of the agreement and is clearer on the process. In a phone interview, Scott Laurence, the senior vice president for airline planning, said that the company is excited about the possibility of servicing Cuba for commercial flights and will likely apply for routes from Orlando International Airport, Tampa International Airport, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport.

He also said that Havana won’t be the only Cuban city it serves. “We already have a Tampa to Santa Clara charter service and will look to have commercial flights there and to other Cuban cities as well,” he said.

United Airlines also is interested in flying to Havana. “We look forward to offering service between our global gateways and Cuba as soon as we have approval to do so,” the airline spokesman Charles Hobart said in an email.

And Southwest released a statement after the commercial flights became official, saying that the airline is excited about the possibility of providing low-fare, high-quality service to Cuba.


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