The capital city of Cuba is about to receive an influx of American travelers. Today, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) selected eight U.S. airlines to begin scheduled flights to Havana.
A dozen U.S. airlines applied to operate scheduled passenger and cargo service to Havana. The airlines that were selected are Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, and United Airlines. They were approved to fly to Havana from 10 U.S. cities, including Atlanta, Charlotte, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, New York City, Orlando, and Tampa.
In June, the DOT approved the first scheduled flights from the U.S. to nine other Cuban cities: Camaguey, Cayo Coco, Cayo Largo del Sur, Cienfeugos, Holguin, Manzanillo, Santa Clara, Santiago de Cuba, and Matanzas. Those flights are expected to begin this fall.
The DOT needed more time to determine the airlines that would service Havana because of the number of applications it received. Collectively, U.S. carriers applied for nearly 60 flights per day to Havana, though only 20 daily flights are allowed in an agreement with Cuba. The DOT says it chose airlines that could maintain the best ongoing service between the U.S. and Havana.
The announcements represent another step in the Obama administration’s plan to ease travel restrictions to Cuba. Americans no longer need to apply for a license from the Treasury Department to visit Cuba, and travelers are now allowed to use U.S. credit and debits cards in Cuba.
Despite 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