The U.S. and Cuban Governments Ink a Deal to Resume Commercial Flights

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A pilot waves the Cuban flag from an American Airlines plane.
A pilot waves the Cuban flag from an American Airlines plane.

The ink has dried on the U.S.-Cuba deal to re-establish scheduled air services between the two countries, and now the race has begun for U.S. air carriers trying to snag as many coveted runway time slots as possible. Interested airlines must apply to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) by March 2, 2016, and after receiving a response by March 14, must then answer by March 21. Each carrier is able to apply for 20 roundtrip daily flights between the U.S. and Havana, in addition to 10 daily roundtrip flights to each of Cuba’s nine other international airports.

After the announcement, Delta Air Lines issued a press release stating that the company will file an application with the DOT to operate nonstop service to Cuba. “The U.S. Transportation Department is expected to notify applying airlines by summer which frequencies and routes are approved,” said Joe Esposito, Delta’s v.p. of network planning. “In the meantime, Delta is diligently preparing to serve the market.” John Caldwell, president of Delta Vacations added “This is an historic agreement. Delta has announced its intent to file with the U.S. government to operate non-stop service to Cuba and Delta Vacations is diligently preparing to serve the market with the comprehensive types of travel programs and booking experiences that our customers have come to expect.”

Rob Land, JetBlue’s senior v.p. of government affairs & associate general counsel, applauded the agreement in a press release noting that “JetBlue eagerly awaits the opportunity to grow our service with regularly scheduled routes between various U.S. and Cuban cities. We look forward to providing the affordable, high-quality service that sets JetBlue apart.” The carrier began operating charters to Cuba in 2011, and currently flies to Havana and Santa Clara from New York, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood, and Tampa. Charter flights, according to the DOT, can continue as before. American Airlines also released a statement, declaring the airline’s intentions to include its Latin America gateway hub at Miami International Airport (MIA) in the company’s application for scheduled service to Cuba. American Airlines has provided charter service from the U.S. to Cuba for 25 years.

Under the new arrangement, the only travelers who will be able to book these upcoming flights are those who fall under one of the 12 authorized categories as defined by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. For more information, visit transportation.gov.

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