Get ready to visit Cuba. Today, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) approved requests from six domestic airlines to begin the first scheduled flights to Cuba in more than 50 years.
The air carriers that were approved are American Airlines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Silver Airways, Southwest Airlines, and Sun Country Airlines. They were approved to fly from five U.S. cities to nine Cuban cities. Cuba’s capital city, Havana, was not one of the approved destinations, and the DOT will announce the airlines that will serve Havana later this summer. According to the DOT, U.S. carriers have applied for nearly 60 flights per day to Havana, though only 20 daily flights are allowed in an agreement with Cuba.
Delta, United, and Alaska have all proposed service to Cuba and are presumably in the running for the 20 daily flights available to Havana. Delta is seeking approval to fly to Havana from Atlanta, New York, Miami, and Orlando. Alaska filed to provide daily nonstop service from Los Angeles to Havana.
The race is on to see which airline will fly to Cuba first.
American Airlines says it will launch its first flight to Cuba in September. American will operate two daily flights between Miami and the cities Holguin, Santa Clara, and Mantanzas. It will also fly one daily flight between Miami and the cities Camaguey and Cienfuegos. Information about ticket sales has yet to be announced.
JetBlue says it will begin flights to Cuba this fall. The airline will operate daily roundtrip flights between Fort Lauderdale and the cities Santa Clara, Camaguey, and Holguin. Seats go on sale this summer, though JetBlue has not revealed how much it plans to charge.
The other airlines have not made official announcements, though the DOT approved routes for each of them. Silver Airlines will fly from Fort Lauderdale to all nine approved cities: Camaguey, Cayo Coco, Cayo Largo del Sur, Cienfeugos, Holguin, Manzanillo, Santa Clara, Santiago de Cuba, and Matanzas. Frontier will fly from Chicago to Santiago de Cuba and Matanzas and from Philadelphia to Camaguey, Santa Clara, and Matanzas. Southwest will fly from Fort Lauderdale to Matanzas and Santa Clara. Sun Country will fly from Minneapolis to Santa Clara and Matanzas.
In January, the Obama administration eased travel restrictions to Cuba. You no longer need to apply for a license from the Treasury Department to visit, and travelers are now allowed to use U.S. credit and debits cards in Cuba.
Despite all these changes, traveling to Cuba for tourist activities is still prohibited. The U.S. government allows travel to Cuba for 12 authorized reasons, and travelers should be prepared to name one of those reasons when they return home through Customs and Border Protection. Earlier this year, the Treasury Department issued a statement warning Americans that they’ll face penalties if they lie about their reason for visiting Cuba.
The 12 authorized reasons to visit Cuba are:
- Family visits
- Official government business
- Professional research and meetings
- Educational activities
- Religious activities
- Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic or 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
- Certain authorized export transactions