Earlier this year, as relations between the Cuban and U.S. governments continued to thaw, the Department of Transportation invited airlines to apply for new routes between American cities at the Cuban capital of Havana. The agreement allowed for up to 20 daily roundtrip flights, as well as up to 10 daily roundtrip flights to each of Cuba’s other nine airports. Potential routes to other Cuban cities have already been approved, American companies have begun operating local hotels, and cruise operators have also started service.
All this even though there remain some restrictions on who gets to visit. Tourism by U.S. citizens is still technically prohibited, so many people organize their trips around charitable or educational work.
Havana is the obvious target for most airlines. Eight carriers proposed dozens of routes, and that has since been whittled down to a tentative list of 15 published today by the DoT. Because some routes are operated multiple times per day, they still add up to 20 flights per day. My count includes unique combinations of carrier and originating city; exclude duplicate flights operated by different carriers and only 10 cities will have new service to Havana.
|Alaska Airlines||Los Angeles||Daily|
|American Airlines||Miami||4X Daily|
|Delta Air Lines||New York (JFK)||Daily|
|Delta Air Lines||Atlanta||Daily|
|Delta Air Lines||Miami||Daily|
|JetBlue||Ft. Lauderdale||2X Daily (1X on Saturday)|
|JetBlue||New York (JFK)||Daily|
|Southwest Airlines||Ft. Lauderdale||2X Daily|
|Spirit Airlines||Ft. Lauderdale||2X Daily|
The list includes flights operated by Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, and United Airlines. Airlines may file a complaint this month before this proposal is finalized, but that seems unlikely since everyone got at least a little of what they asked for.
I’m glad to see Alaska got at least one route, and it should tie in nicely with their existing service to Mexico and Costa Rica, much of which originates in Los Angeles. Nearly all other flights are along the Atlantic coast. Even United’s Houston route operates just once a week. It’s not surprising that much of the competition will be from Miami and New York, where there are already extensive Cuban-American populations.