US will resume flights to Cuba; airliners rush to bid for routes

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) signed an agreement with Cuba on Tuesday which will allow commercial airliners to fly between the two countries for the first time since the early 1960s.

The arrangement will allow up to a total of 110 round-trip U.S. flights per day to the Spanish-speaking island — 20 to Havana, and 10 to “each of Cuba’s nine other international airports”.

By law, tourism is still not a legitimate reason for Americans to visit Cuba, but U.S. travelers will only be required to select an option from a list of 12 authorized activities when booking a flight.

021616-Cuba-FlightsLegally permissible actions for Americans in Cuba include: “family visits”; “journalistic activity”; “support for the Cuban people”; “exploration, importation, or transmission of information”; and “professional research and professional meetings”.

Most major U.S. airliners have already publicly stated that they will apply to bid for Cuban routes with DOT, including American, JetBlue, United, Spirit, and Delta.  Southwest and Alaska Airlines both remain uncommitted, only saying that they will consider the opportunity.

The deadline for commercial airline companies to submit their application is March 2.

U.S. policy of unlimited private charter flights, the only type of American passenger aircraft previously allowed to fly to Cuba, will not be effected by the new agreement.


[AP] [USA Today] [Photo courtesy Reuters]