Last updated: 09:15 AM ET, Thu March 03 2016

Airlines Officially Apply for Cuba Routes

Airlines & Airports | Delta Air Lines | Josh Lew | March 03, 2016

Airlines Officially Apply for Cuba Routes

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

Travelers are finally getting a glimpse of which airlines and which cities could have flights to Cuba. On Wednesday, carriers started announcing their specific plans for service. Though the Department of Transportation has not yet approved any flights, airlines have locked in their choices for which specific routes they intend to fly.

Applications were submitted to the DOT on Wednesday afternoon. This is the next step in what has already been a long process. The U.S. government will most likely take several months before they choose which airlines will fly on contested routes. The most sought-after destination in Cuba is Havana. The recently-signed agreement between Cuba and the United States allows for 20 daily round-trip flights into Havana and 10 daily flights between the U.S. and each of nine other international airports in Cuba.

As expected, a number of airlines want to use Florida as a gateway to Cuba. American Airlines and Alaska Airlines have both applied for Los Angeles to Havana routes. Alaska says there is enough demand for two daily flights from LA to Cuba’s capital.

READ MORE: Travel to Cuba ‘A Moment in History for Travel Professionals’

Overall, American is pursuing the highest number of routes. It applied for a total of 10 of the Havana slots, and also officially sought routes to five of Cuba’s other airports. Most of these flights would depart from Miami, which is the logical gateway to Cuba because of its large Cuban American population. In addition to its Miami and LA flights, AA has applied to fly to Havana from Chicago, Dallas and Charlotte.

Delta, meanwhile, applied for daily flights from Orlando, Miami, Atlanta and New York. United wants to fly to Havana from Newark, but also has applied for once-per-week flights (on Saturday) from Washington D.C., Chicago and Houston.

Low-cost carriers were very active during the application process. JetBlue applied for four daily flights to Havana from Fort Lauderdale and two each from Tampa and Orlando. Outside of Florida, ‘Blue will try to get slots for flights from Boston, Newark and New York. Southwest is also interesting in offering flights to Havana from Fort Lauderdale. It has applied for six daily flights to Havana from JetBlue’s South Florida base. Both leading LCCs are also interested in serving some of the other airports in Cuba like Varadero and Santa Clara.

READ MORE: 5 Hotels and Resorts in Cuba We Can’t Wait to Visit

Frontier has taken a similar approach. It has applied for routes originating in Denver and Havana, but has also applied to serve a number of secondary cities including Santiago, Varadero and Camaguey (all from Miami). It has also applied to service Varadero from Chicago and Philadelphia.

Spirit did not announce what cities it applied for, but Florida-based regional carrier Silver Airways did, stating that it applied for twice-daily flights from West Palm Beach to Havana. The upstart is also waiting to hear from the DOT about its application for flights from Jacksonville, Fort Lauderdale and Key West. Silver also applied to fly to each of the nine other Cuban airports from Fort Lauderdale.

No decisions are expected from the DOT for several months, so airlines will be back in a holding pattern for the time being. In the meantime, charter flights are available, although the launch of commercial service will mean cheaper flights and much easier booking.


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