1 Year of Cigar Aficionado for $10 PLUS a Free Gift!

Cuba

U.S. Approves Flights to Havana

Sep 1, 2016 | By Peter Kornbluh
U.S. Approves Flights to Havana
Photo: AP Photo/Desmond Boylan
The international terminal of the Jose Martí International airport in Havana.

The U.S. Department of Transportation yesterday approved eight U.S. airline companies to begin flying to Cuba's capital city, Havana. Delta, United, American, Southwest and JetBlue airlines are among the carriers selected from 20 companies that had bid for the coveted route. The other airlines that received routes are Alaska Airlines, Frontier Airlines and Spirit Airlines.

The announcement comes as part of the history-making restoration of commercial air transportation between Cuba and the United States—a major step forward in the efforts of President Obama and President Raúl Castro to normalize relations between Washington and Havana. Yesterday, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx traveled to Cuba aboard the first commercial flight since 1961, along with 150 other travelers, reporters and business VIPs. The JetBlue flight took off from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and landed in Santa Clara, near the center of Cuba.

"Today's actions are the result of months of work by airlines, cities, the U.S. government and many others toward delivering on President Obama's promise to re-engage with Cuba," Secretary Foxx stated. "Transportation has a unique role in this historic initiative and we look forward to the benefits these new services will provide to those eligible for Cuba travel."

Technically, it remains illegal for Americans to go to Cuba for tourism and vacation. But President Obama has created broad exemptions to the Cold War-era restrictions that now allow virtually anyone to qualify for "purposeful" travel to the island. Passengers booking tickets online are now able to click on a box of one of 12 categories, including professional, educational, or "people-to-people" travel. The airline companies are also selling visas along with the tickets to streamline the travel experience.

By the end of the year, some 20 U.S. flights per day will arrive at Havana's Jose Martí International airport from key hubs such as Miami, Atlanta, New York, Houston and Los Angeles. With additional flights to provincial airports, analysts predict some 300 weekly flights to the island by 2017, bringing a significant increase in U.S. visitors and pressure on Congress to remove all restrictions to travel. "If Congress acts to lift the travel ban," predicts Arne Sorenson, CEO of Marriott International, which, through Starwood Resorts, holds a contract with the Cuban government to manage hotels in Havana, "the number of U.S. visitors is likely to grow ... to 5 million within just a few years."

"Excellent. Now if they could just get flights to José Martí International Airport we'd be in business. I'm sure its coming and hopefully with Delta. " —September 2, 2016 08:54 AM

More in Cuba

See all
Tropical Storm Laura Causes Some Damage in Cuba’s Vuelta Abajo Region

Tropical Storm Laura Causes Some Damage in Cuba’s Vuelta Abajo Region

While the storm wasn’t as bad as it could have been, tropical storm Laura caused some damage in …

Aug 27, 2020
Cuba Rescinds Tax On Changing U.S. Dollars For CUCs

Cuba Rescinds Tax On Changing U.S. Dollars For CUCs

The Cuban government announced that, starting July 20, it will no longer impose a 10 percent …

Jul 21, 2020
Roof Collapse at Cuba’s Partagás Factory Closes Iconic Casa del Habano

Roof Collapse at Cuba’s Partagás Factory Closes Iconic Casa del Habano

This week, a roof collapsed in the iconic Real Fabrica de Partagás in Havana, casually known as the …

Jul 1, 2020
Marriott Hotels Being Forced To Leave Cuba

Marriott Hotels Being Forced To Leave Cuba

The Trump administration has ordered Marriott International Hotels to close down its business …

Jun 6, 2020
Cuba Tightens Borders As Coronavirus Cases Spread

Cuba Tightens Borders As Coronavirus Cases Spread

Cuba will close its borders to international tourism and non-resident visitors for at least a month, …

Mar 23, 2020
Romeo Night at Habanos Festival Raises More than 4 Million Euros

Romeo Night at Habanos Festival Raises More than 4 Million Euros

Habanos spared no expense on Friday night when the company threw its final gala cigar dinner to …

Mar 2, 2020