Game On: Major U.S. Airlines Announce Route Proposals for Commercial Service to Cuba

Havana, Cuba // Photo by Joe Pike

Major U.S. air carriers, including Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and JetBlue Airways, announced Wednesday evening that they have officially submitted route proposals to provide commercial service to Cuba for the first time in decades. 

Wednesday was the deadline for airlines to submit such proposals. The government will spend the next few months reviewing the requests. The Department of Transportation (DOT) plans to make a decision on which airlines will get routes by this summer, according to the Boston Globe. 

Delta Air Lines filed an application with the U.S. government to provide non-stop service to Cuba from four key cities in the United States. Delta seeks approval to serve Havana with daily flights from its hubs in Atlanta and New York's JFK International Airport, as well as from Miami and Orlando.

The Dallas Morning News is reporting that American Airlines wants to launch a daily flight from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport to Havana, Cuba, along with flights to the island nation from Miami, Charlotte, Chicago and Los Angeles, according to an application submitted Wednesday to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The Boston Globe is also reporting that JetBlue has applied to begin service to Cuba from six U.S. cities. If approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation, JetBlue would offer one flight per day from Logan International Airport to Havana, the company said. It would also offer flights to Cuba from New York, Newark, and Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, and Orlando in Florida. The airline said it expects to begin service to Cuba in September.

United Airlines submitted its formal application to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) for authority to provide service from four of its largest U.S. gateway cities – Newark, Houston, Washington, D.C. and Chicago – to Havana’s José Martí International Airport. 

United’s proposal to DOT outlines its planned service to Havana from hubs serving four of the country’s largest Cuban-American populations. The service would include a total of 11 roundtrip flights per week with daily service from Newark Liberty International Airport and one additional Saturday flight (eight weekly flights), along with a Saturday-only flight from Houston George Bush Intercontinental, Washington Dulles International Airport and Chicago O’Hare International Airport (three weekly flights). 

If United’s application is approved, service to Havana on these routes will be operated with United Wi-Fi-equipped Boeing 737-800 two-cabin aircraft with 16 United First, 90 United Economy and 48 extra legroom United Economy Plus seats.

Silver Airways, which operates more routes within Florida and between Florida and The Bahamas than any other airline, filed an application with the U.S. Department of Transportation to provide service to 10 Cuban destinations from five cites in Florida, including Key West, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, and Fort Myers/Naples.  

These are all heavily-populated Cuban American communities in Florida that, in the absence of such flights from Silver Airways, will most likely not have direct flights to Cuba. Cuba-bound travelers from these Florida communities would be forced to drive long distances to other airports if Silver’s requests are not approved.

Southwest Airlines also filed an application with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) requesting governmental approval to serve Cuba with daily nonstop flights from the carrier's three busiest airports in Florida: Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL); Tampa Bay International Airport (TPA); and Orlando International Airport (MCO).  

The carrier applied to serve Havana (HAV) from all three Florida cities and additionally to serve Varadero (VRA) and Santa Clara (SNU) from Ft. Lauderdale (Miami Area). Upon approval, Southwest intends to initiate service to Cuba later this year. 

It was just a few weeks ago that several media outlets reported that the United States and Cuba officially signed an aviation agreement that paves the way for the first regularly scheduled flights between the countries in nearly 50 years.
USA Today has reported that the deal opened up 110 flights to Cuba on U.S. carriers. Of those, 20 will be to Havana. Beyond the 20 allocated for Havana, there will be 10 daily flights allowed on routes to each of Cuba's nine other international airports. 

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