US Department of Transportation appoints new flight routes to Cuba

Posted: 06-Sep-16 09:42

After working together with several US carriers, the American Department of Transportation (DOT) has appointed different routes for eight airlines. Some companies like JetBlue and Delta were appointed Havana flights, whilst others like Silver Airways were left out and granted other cities besides the capital. Air service from all eight carriers is expected to begin soon.

US Department of Transportation appoints new flight routes to Cuba

Without doubt 2016 is a year of great progress for travel between the US and Cuba. After negotiations by American carriers and the US Department of Transportation (DOT) direct commercial flights to the island are finally a reality. The first one to take off was JetBlue’s trip to Santa Clara which took place on 31st August, and many other airlines will follow suit during the next few months.

On this historic date that re-established regular air service between both countries after half a century of hostility, the U.S. Department of Transportation gave final approval to eight U.S. airlines to begin service on coveted routes to Havana. Back in July, the DOT had already selected the companies, but it now reaffirms its decision and also appoints where carriers will fly from and to, as well as the number of flights per day.

After arriving on JetBlue’s inaugural Fort Lauderdale-Santa Clara flight, US Transportation Secretary, Anthony Foxx declared that:

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. 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.”

There were 20 daily frequencies to Havana up for grabs, twelve US passenger airlines and one cargo airline had applied for the flights. The big winners were American Airlines, which will be able to fly four times daily from Miami and once daily from Charlotte, as well as JetBlue Airways, which has been authorized to fly to the Cuban capital from Fort Lauderdale, New York’s JFK and Orlando. Delta Air Lines, Alaska Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines and United Airlines also received the highly coveted Havana routes.

Flights will also be taking off from Los Angeles, Atlanta, Tampa, Newark and Houston. In addition to American and JetBlue, four other airlines will serve South Florida. Delta and Frontier were given daily flights from Miami, and Southwest and Spirit were authorized to fly twice daily to Havana from Fort Lauderdale.

The DOT’s decision was not well-received by those companies who were left out of the Havana routes. As Cuba’s capital and one of its most important destinations, every airline was looking forward to being granted access to the city. Despite the objections from carriers who were left out or requested higher travel frequency, the DOT allowed preliminary approvals that it issued in July to stand.

Silver Airways, which did not get any Havana routes, contended in a filing with DOT stating that the applications of several of its rivals were

“...based on excessive, unrealistic demand expectations with capacity levels that could never be sustained.”

The company went on to declare that they believed awarding daily routes to Havana from non-Florida gateways with relatively small populations of Cuban-Americans was a mistake and should be avoided. This airline, however will travel to other destinations in Cuba and begin service to Santa Clara on Thursday.

Other carriers left completely empty-handed and were given no Cuba routes. This was the case for Eastern Air Lines, which stated in a DOT filing that some of the applicants:

“...espouse a level of greed or monopolistic thinking that is awkward as the administration urges Cuba to adopt capitalist, free-market ways.”

Whilst referring to the leading company travelling to the island, American Airlines, they said that this proposal went against the American values of open competition and market forces.

With the final DOT approval, American Airlines truly remain the major US air service representation in the island. It plans more trips that any other carriers with a whopping 91 weekly flights to Cuba. American, which already had a predominant position providing charter flights to Cuba, plans its first scheduled commercial flights to Cienfuegos and Holguin next Wednesday.


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