6 U.S. airlines awarded routes to Cuba, following an agreement reached between the United States and Cuba in 2015 to resume commercial air travel.
The Department of Transportation has granted six airlines to begin scheduled service to Cuba from select Airports this past Friday. The winners - American Airlines, Southwest, JetBlue, Frontier, Silver Airways, and Sun Country all have the authority to fly to the nation's secondary airports. Routes to the nation’s capital, Havana will have to wait as the U.S. government will not award such routes until the better part of the year.
Airlines are allowed to carry through up to 110 daily flights to Cuba. Of those, 20 flights can land in Havana, 10 for each airline to nine other Cuban international airports. However, the DoT has received three times the 20 flight limit in flight requests which means longer deliberation.
The winning airlines are required to begin service within 90 days of the start dates in their applications. Airlines have stated they likely to launch their routes to Cuba's smaller cities sometime in September. Miami and Fort Lauderdale airports will see most of this traffic considering their close proximity to the island nation. Other airports receiving scheduled service to Cuba are Chicago, Philadelphia and Minneapolis/St. Paul. Under the agreement, the airlines will operate up to 10 daily roundtrip flights between the U.S. and Cuba's nine international airports.
The smaller Cuban destinations that have been awarded include Camaguey, Cayo Coco, Cayo Largo, Cienfuegos, Holguin, Manzanillo, Matanzas, Santa Clara and Santiago de Cuba. Although, the recent efforts to mend relations amongst both nations means U.S. citizens will have an easier means of visiting Cuba, pure tourism is still illegal by the U.S government.
Thus, passengers still need to fall under the 12 categories of ‘Purposeful Travel’ outlined by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Examples of those who can purchase tickets are those associated with humanitarian projects, educational and journalistic activities, and family visits. Nonetheless, this still serves as a monumental step to mend relations amongst both countries.