Scheduled Commercial Airline Service to Begin Between Cuba and the United States — But…

S ix domestic airlines based in the United States have been granted approval to begin scheduled commercial flights between five origination cities in the United States and nine destination cities in Cuba for the first time in greater than 50 years — and possibly in as soon as 90 days — but flights serving Havana have not yet been decided.

Anthony Foxx and Charles Rivkin — who are the secretary of transportation and the assistant secretary for Economic and Business Affairs of the Department of State of the United States respectively — signed a non-legally-binding arrangement to once again establish scheduled commercial air service between the two countries back on Tuesday, February 16, 2016.

Scheduled Commercial Airline Service to Begin Between Cuba and the United States — But…

Here are detailed lists of the airlines which were selected to provide service between the United States and cities in Cuba other than Havana — as well as the frequency of flights; the aircraft to be used; and the capacity of the airplanes being used.

American Airlines

American Airlines will use the following airplanes with the following capacities on the following routes:

Routing

Frequency Per Day

Aircraft and Capacity

Miami-Santa Clara

Twice

Boeing 737-800 / 160 Seats

Miami-Holguin

Twice

Boeing 737-800 / 160 Seats

Miami-Matanzas

Twice

Airbus A319 / 144 Seats

Miami-Camagüey

Once

Airbus A319 / 144 Seats

Miami-Cienfuegos

Once

Airbus A319 / 144 Seats

Frontier Airlines

Frontier Airlines will use Airbus A320 airplanes with a capacity between 180 and 186 seats on all of the following routes:

Routing

Frequency

Chicago (O’Hare)-Santiago de Cuba

Once daily

Chicago (O’Hare)-Matanzas

Once per week on Saturdays

Philadelphia-Camagüey

4 times per week on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays

Philadelphia-Santa Clara

3 times per week on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays

Philadelphia-Matanzas

Once per week on Saturdays

JetBlue Airways

JetBlue Airways will use Airbus A320 airplanes with a capacity of 162 seats on all of the following routes:

Routing

Frequency Per Day

Fort Lauderdale-Camagüey

Once

Fort Lauderdale-Holguin

Once

Fort Lauderdale-Santa Clara

Once

Silver Airways

Silver Airways will use Saab 340B Plus airplanes with a capacity of 34 seats on all of the following routes:

Routing

Frequency

Fort Lauderdale-Camagüey

5 times per week except for Monday and Friday

Fort Lauderdale-Cayo Coco

3 times per week on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays

Fort Lauderdale-Cayo Largo del Sur

Once per week on Saturdays

Fort Lauderdale-Cienfuegos

Twice per week on Mondays and Fridays

Fort Lauderdale-Holguin

Once daily

Fort Lauderdale-Manzanillo

3 times per week on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays

Fort Lauderdale-Santa Clara

Once daily

Fort Lauderdale-Santiago de Cuba

Once daily

Fort Lauderdale-Matanzas

4 times per week on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays

Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines will use Boeing 737-700 airplanes with a capacity of 143 seats on all of the following routes:

Routing

Frequency

Fort Lauderdale-Matanzas

Twice daily

Fort Lauderdale-Santa Clara

Once daily

Sun Country Airlines

Sun Country Airlines will use Boeing 737 airplanes with a capacity of between 126 and 162 seats on all of the following routes:

Routing

Frequency Once Per Week

Minneapolis-Santa Clara

Sunday

Minneapolis-Matanzas

Saturday

Why the Application of Eastern Air Lines Was Not Approved

Eastern Air Lines has been struggling to return to proudly gracing its livery in the skies once again and currently provides charter services.

The Department of Transportation of the United States did not approve the application of Eastern Air Lines, as the airline has applied for both Havana and non-Havana scheduled authority; but it has not completed the licensing steps necessary to conduct scheduled passenger services. The existing operating authority by the Department of Transportation limits Eastern Air Lines to providing charter flights only.

Several carriers have questioned whether Eastern Air Lines should be eligible to receive any scheduled Cuba authority at this time. Representatives of the Department of Transportation believe that the best approach is to defer for now action on the request by Eastern Air Lines for non-Havana authority and consider the matter of the eligibility of Eastern Air Lines for scheduled service in the context of the Havana proceeding. In the meantime, Eastern Air Lines can continue to provide charter service to Cuba as it does now.

Regulations and Additional Information

On Tuesday, February 16, 2016, the Department of Transportation of the United States invited airlines based in the United States who were interested in providing scheduled services between the United States and Cuba to apply for the necessary authority and an allocation of the frequencies available for scheduled services. 13 carriers filed applications for U.S.-Cuba authority, and seven of those 13 applied for authority to serve cities other than Havana. The requests to serve the non-Havana cities are all under the daily cap of 10 flights at each of the nine airports, and the applications approved by DOT were uncontested on the record.

Keep in mind that despite the launch once again of commercial airline service between the United Staes and Cuba, significant limitations and requirements remain in place concerning air transportation and travel between the United States and Cuba. You should also ensure that you comply with the requirements of the government of Cuba. You can find additional information from the Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C.; and information on requirements of the governments of both the United States and Cuba are found here.

This order does not mean that you can travel to Cuba as a tourist, as travel for tourist activities remains prohibited by statute. This new arrangement will facilitate visits for travelers that fall under one of twelve categories authorized by the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the Department of Treasury of the United States, of whose frequently asked questions you are encouraged to review before traveling to Cuba.

You are also encouraged to check with the Department of State of the United States pertaining to whether or not you need a visa to visit Cuba.

The text of the arrangement between Cuba and the United States can be found here if you are interested in reading more about it; and you may view the decision of the Department of Transportation, track the progress of the case, and view the other publicly available documents filed in the case by accessing the Federal Docket Management System and searching for Order 2016-6-5, in Docket DOT-OST-2016-0021.

Summary

If you are wondering why airlines — such as Delta Air Lines — have not been selected by the Department of Transportation, the reason is because a decision on flight routes between the United States and Havana are expected to be announced later this summer. There will be a maximum of 20 daily round trip flights between the United States and Cuba available; but airlines based in the United States have requested nearly 60 daily round trip flights — requiring the Department of Transportation to select from amongst the competing applications as a result.

The requests to serve cities other than Havana were all fewer than the daily maximum limit of ten flights — meaning that the applications approved by Department of Transportation were uncontested on the record. In fact, there are a few of the total of 90 daily round trip flights which are still available if any airlines are interested in applying to service them.

Existing charter services between Cuba and the United States are currently unaffected by the implementation of commercial airline service between the two countries.

I have not yet been to Cuba; but I am glad that I will not have to first stop over in another country in order to be able to do so — nor will I need to be concerned about violating any laws. The downside is that there is expected to be a significant increase in tourism to Cuba, which could very well adversely affect the charm of the country.

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