Following the historic agreement between the U.S. and Cuba to resume scheduled flights between the two countries for the first time in 50 years, 6 operators were granted licence to operate combined 110 roundtrip flights a day.
The US Department of Transportation just approved six domestic airlines to begin offering service to and from Cuba, four months after the two former Cold War foes signed an agreement to restore commercial air traffic.
The approved carriers are American Airlines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Silver Airways, Southwest Airlines, and Sun Country Airlines. Starting this fall, those airlines may begin offering flights between Cuba and the US cities of Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Minneapolis / St. Paul. In addition to Havana, nine Cuban cities will accept US flights: Camagüey, Cayo Coco, Cayo Largo, Cienfuegos, Holguín, Manzanillo, Matanzas, Santa Clara, and Santiago de Cuba. The agreement allows 20 regular daily U.S. flights to Havana, in addition to the current 10-15 charter flights a day. The rest would be to other above mentioned Cuban cities.
Commercial flights between Cuba and the United States were cancelled 53 years ago but since the mid-1970s, authorized charter flights have been allowed under certain conditions.
Nearly 160,000 U.S. leisure travelers flew to Cuba last year, along with hundreds of thousands of Cuban-Americans visiting family, mostly on expensive, frequently chaotic charter flights out of Florida. Commercial flights could bring hundreds of thousands more U.S. travelers a year and make the travel process far easier, with features such as online booking and 24-hour customer service that are largely absent in the charter industry. U.S. visitors to Cuba will still have to qualify under one of the travel categories legally authorized by the U.S. government. Tourism is still barred by law, but the number of legal reasons to go to Cuba – from organizing professional meetings to distributing information to Cubans – has grown so large and loosely enforced that the distinction from tourism has blurred significantly.
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