Six US Airlines Granted Permission to Operate Cuba Flights


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Six US airlines have been granted permission by the US Department of Transportation (DOT) to begin scheduled flights between the US and Cuba in the autumn.

The awards follow last December’s bilateral agreement between the US and Cuba to restart scheduled commercial flights between the countries.

The route authorities were approved for non-Havana services; DOT said it will make a decision on Havana authorities over the summer.

American Airlines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Silver Airways, Southwest Airlines and Sun Country Airlines all had their applications to operate non-Havana routes approved in full by DOT. Miami-based Eastern Air Lines’ application was deferred because the startup carrier using the historic name is currently only authorized to operate charter flights.

“Last year, President Obama announced that it was time to ‘begin a new journey’ with the Cuban people,” US transportation secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. “Today, we are delivering on his promise by re-launching scheduled air service to Cuba after more than half a century.”

Dallas/Fort Worth-based American has been authorized to fly 2X daily between Miami and the Cuban destinations Santa Clara, Holguin and Matanzas, and daily between Miami and Camaguey and Cienfuegos. The flights to/from Santa Clara and Holguin will be operated with 160-seat Boeing 737-800s, while the three other routes will be flown with 144-seat Airbus A319s. American said the flights are expected to start in September.

Denver-based Frontier has been authorized to fly daily between Chicago O’Hare and Santiago de Cuba and weekly (on Saturdays) between O’Hare and Matanzas. Additionally, Frontier can fly 4X weekly between Philadelphia and Camaguey, 3X weekly between Philadelphia and Santa Clara and weekly (on Saturdays) between Philadelphia and Matanzas. All of Frontier’s Cuba flights will be operated with 180-186-seat A320s.

New York-based JetBlue has been given permission to fly daily between Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Camaguey, Holguin and Santa Clara in Cuba. All of JetBlue’s Cuba flights will be with 162-seat A320s.

Fort Lauderdale-based Silver has been granted the authority to fly between Fort Lauderdale and nine Cuban destinations: Camaguey (5X weekly, but not on Mondays or Fridays), Cayo Coco (3X weekly), Cayo Largo del Sur (weekly on Saturdays), Cienfuegos (2X weekly), Holguin (daily), Manzanillo (3X weekly), Santa Clara (daily), Santiago de Cuba (daily) and Matanzas (4X weekly). All of Silver’s flights will be operated with 34-seat Saab 340B turboprops.

Dallas-based Southwest has been given permission to fly between Fort Lauderdale and Matanzas (2X daily) and between Fort Lauderdale and Santa Clara (daily) using 143-seat 737-700s.

Minneapolis-based Sun Country has been granted authority to fly between Minneapolis and Santa Clara (weekly on Sundays) and between Minneapolis and Matanzas (weekly on Saturdays) using 737s.

“Today’s news is historic on many fronts, especially for the families who, for the first time in generations, will have affordable … air travel to visit their loved ones,” JetBlue president and CEO Robin Hayes said in a statement.