DOT selects US airlines to serve Havana

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) on Aug. 31 finalized its selection of eight U.S. airlines to begin scheduled flights to Havana, Cuba’s José Martí International Airport (HAV) as early as this fall.

Airlines receiving the Havana awards include network, low-cost, and ultra-low-cost carriers Alaska Airlines (NYSE:ALK), American Airlines (NASDAQ:AAL), Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL), Frontier Airlines (NASDAQ:FRNT), ietBlue Airways (NASDAQ:JBLU), Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV), Spirit Airlines (NASDAQ:SAVE), and United Airlines (NYSE:UAL).

The flag of Cuba, Cuban flag
The flag of Cuba
The flights will provide service to Havana from Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International (ATL), Charlotte Douglas International (CLT), Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International (FLL), Houston George Bush Intercontinental (IAH), Los Angeles International (LAX), Miami International (MIA), Newark Liberty International (EWR), New York’s John F. Kennedy International (JFK), Orlando International (MCO), and Tampa International (TPA).

“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 reengage with Cuba,” Anthony Foxx, secretary of transportation, said in a statement announcing the selections. “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.”

Flights must still receive approval from the Cuban government before start dates can be finalized and tickets offered for sale.

In conjunction with the announcement, Foxx flew to Cuba on the first scheduled flight to the island in over 50 years. The flight was a jetBlue Airways flight from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International (FLL) to Santa Clara Abel Santamaría Airport (SNU).

In July, DOT announced the approval of six U.S. passenger airlines and one all-cargo airline to serve cities in Cuba other than Havana. The additional carriers are expected to begin flights to those cities shortly.

The Department’s principal objective in making its selections was to maximize public benefits, including choosing airlines that offered and could maintain the best service between the U.S. and Havana, DOT said in its statement. The decision allocates nonstop Havana service to areas with substantial Cuban-American populations, as well as to several aviation hub cities.

On February 16, 2016, Secretary Foxx signed an arrangement with the Cuban government opening the way for scheduled air service between the two countries to resume after more than 50 years. Under the arrangement, each country’s airlines may operate up to 20 daily roundtrip flights between the U.S. and Havana. The arrangement also provides each country’s airlines with the opportunity to operate up to ten daily roundtrip flights between the U.S. and each of Cuba’s nine international airports, other than Havana, for a total of 90 daily roundtrips.

While the new arrangement will facilitate visits for travelers, U.S. citizens must fall into one of 12 categories authorized by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

Travel to Cuba is allowed for family visits; official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations; journalistic activity; professional research and professional meetings; educational activities; religious activities; public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; support for the Cuban people; humanitarian projects; activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials; and certain authorized export transactions.

While travelers no longer have to apply for and receive permission, they must still self-certify that they fall into one of the 12 categories covered under the "general license" issued by the Treasury Department.

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