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What U.S. Commercial Carrier Will Be Next to Touch Down in Cuba?

September 1, 2016 By: Joe Pike

Havana, Cuba // Photo by Joe Pike

When JetBlue Airways landed in Cuba on Wednesday it marked the first U.S. commercial flight to touch down in the once-forbidden Caribbean island in more than 50 years.

Now, find out what U.S. carriers will be next to make the historic trip to Cuba. 

Travel Agent breaks down the impact of the first commercial flight to Cuba as well as the details behind the other approved flights scheduled to fly there soon.

The Impact of JetBlue

The flight ushers in a new era of affordable and convenient air travel to Cuba, and comes after months of collaboration between JetBlue, U.S. officials, Cuban officials and business partners to resume air service between the two countries.

The occasion marked not only the first U.S. scheduled commercial flight since the 1960s, but also the first time an American carrier has operated a scheduled commercial jetliner between the U.S. and Cuba, as U.S. airlines only flew propeller-powered aircraft to the Caribbean island before the embargo began.

In addition to Santa Clara, JetBlue will launch service between Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood and Camaguey on November 3, and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood and Holguin on November 10, subject to receipt of government operating authority.

JetBlue tentatively plans to serve the Cuban capital of Havana with daily flights between Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood, New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and Orlando International Airport (MCO).

When service to Cuba begins, JetBlue will operate in 22 countries and the new routes will further grow JetBlue’s presence in the Caribbean and at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood, where the airline is the largest carrier, flying to more than 50 nonstop destinations by the end of the year. Customers across the JetBlue network may also take advantage of JetBlue’s connections to and from Cuba through its South Florida focus city.

JetBlue’s commercial service follows nearly five years of successful charter service operating multiple routes between Cuban markets and U.S. cities. In that time, JetBlue has built strong relationships with airport authorities and worked closely together to make the launch of commercial service possible.

Flights between the U.S. and Santa Clara, Camaguey and Holguin will be operated on JetBlue's Airbus A320 aircraft, with free Wi-Fi; complimentary and unlimited name-brand snacks and soft drinks; free, live DIRECTV programming; and 100 channels of SiriusXM radio in every seatback.

And the agent community is celebrating. 

Zane Kerby, the American Society of Travel Agents’ (ASTA) president and CEO, issued a statement regarding the first direct commercial flight between the U.S. and Cuba in over a half-century.

"ASTA congratulates the U.S.-based airlines who are celebrating their inaugural flights to Cuba this week,” said Kerby. “The availability of direct flights from the U.S. means that Americans will have more opportunities to explore a part of the world that’s been restricted for far too long. ASTA member travel agents believe that Americans ought to be allowed to travel across the globe without restriction, allowing them to act as ambassadors of freedom and American values abroad."

Who’s Next?

Up to a maximum of 110 daily flights operated by U.S. carriers are due to begin flying to the island, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).

The DOT recently announced that eight carriers will begin scheduled flights to Cuba's capital city Havana as early as the fall. Those carriers are: Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines and United Airlines. The flights will provide service to Havana from Atlanta; Charlotte, North Carolina; Fort Lauderdale; Houston; Los Angeles; Miami; Newark, New Jersey; New York City; Orlando and Tampathe department said.

Delta will begin daily service to Havana, Cuba, from Atlanta, Miami and New York on December 1.

Flights will be available for sale beginning September 10. All routes are subject to Cuban regulatory approval.

Delta flights between New York-JFK and Havana will connect the New York City area, home to the second largest Cuban-American population, to Cuba's political, cultural and economic capital.

Atlanta service will provide more than 150 U.S. cities with one-stop access to Cuba from the world's largest hub, with more seats, destinations and flights than any other carrier.

Delta's Miami-Havana flights will serve the largest population of Cuban-Americans in the U.S. Delta is the second-largest carrier at Miami International Airport by number of daily flights.

Delta Vacations, Delta's official vacation provider, will offer Cuba travel packages later this year for customers who prefer to bundle their Cuba experience.

Alaska Airlines was also recently awarded the right to operate commercial service between Los Angeles and Havana, Cuba. 

The DOT officially approved Alaska's application to begin service to the Cuban capital, which still must be approved by the Cuban government before tickets can go on sale.

Once Alaska receives official approval from the Cuban government, the airline will determine when to begin service. The Alaska Airlines flight will originate in Seattle with same plane service to Los Angeles and then Havana.

Traveling to Cuba involves advance planning. The U.S. government doesn't allow Americans to visit Cuba strictly for tourism – U.S. citizens are permitted to travel to Cuba if they fall under 12 approved categories, such as family visits, education, journalism and humanitarian projects.

Keep visiting for more updates on this story. Be sure to visit Travel Agent’s Joe Pike on Twitter @TravelPike.

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About the Author

Joe Pike
Joe Pike is Travel Agent's senior editor covering the Caribbean, Bahamas & Bermuda; Hawaii; Central & South America. Previously, Pike was a newspaper reporter for The Asbury Park...

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By Joe Pike | September 1, 2016
Travel Agent breaks down the impact of the first commercial flight to Cuba as well as the details behind the other approved flights scheduled to fly there soon.