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Why isn’t Havana among Cuban cities U.S. airlines can now serve?

Why isn’t Havana among Cuban cities U.S. airlines can now serve?

U.S. officials named 9 smaller cities for flights from 6 U.S., but no
explanation was offered for not authorizing flights to the capital.

The United States announced Friday that six U.S. airlines have received
permission to provide air service to Cuba beginning in the fall –
another step that is likely to vastly increase the number of Americans
traveling to the island, challenging its infrastructure.

But the government did not approve any service from the United States to
Havana, the island nation’s capital. Transportation Secretary Anthony
Foxx said on a Department of Transportation that he’s working with
U.S. airlines on proposals for Havana service, but that those routes
will be announced at a later date.

Experts suggested that Havana was left off the first list of authorized
Cuban destinations because of the deplorable conditions at the capital’s
Jose Martí . Passengers often spend hours waiting to check in for
their flights, and travelers who use the airport say it couldn’t handle
a bigger flow of passengers without a major facelift.

“Right now it’s busting at the seams,” said Alana Tummino, the head of
the Cuba Working Group at the business-oriented Americas Society and
Council of the Americas.

Still, Havana is the crown jewel of Cuban destinations, as American
Airlines made clear in its statement welcoming the government action.

“The resumption of scheduled air service to Cuba is a historic
achievement and we commend Secretary Foxx and his team for making it a
reality,” Steve Johnson, American’s executive vice for
corporate affairs, said in the statement. “We look forward to giving our
customers direct access to Cuba and eagerly await the Department’s
decision on flights to Havana.”

In addition to American, the airlines authorized to fly directly to Cuba
are Frontier, JetBlue, Silver, Southwest and Sun Country. They were
authorized to fly from five U.S. cities – Miami, Fort Lauderdale,
Chicago, Minneapolis, and Philadelphia – to nine Cuban destinations:
Camagüey, Cayo Coco, Cayo Largo, Cienfuegos, Holguín, Manzanillo,
Matanzas, Santa Clara, and Santiago de Cuba.

American Airlines will fly out of Miami, while Jet Blue, Southwest and
Silver Airways will fly from Fort Lauderdale.

The current authorization anticipates that in total, U.S. airlines will
fly 155 times weekly to the island, the Department of Transportation
said. Slots are available for as many as 90 flights daily, but U.S.
airlines did not apply for all the routes available.

Friday’s announcement is the latest move by the Obama administration to
increase to the communist nation since Dec. 17, 2014, when Obama
and Cuban leader Raúl Castro announced that they would take steps to
normalize relations.

In the past 18 months, the United States has removed Cuba from its list
of state sponsors of terrorism, reestablished diplomatic relations and
opened an embassy in Havana.

But the prospect of large numbers of American visitors arriving most
likely beginning in September raises questions about Cuba’s ability to
handle the expected influx.

More than 3.5 million people visited Cuba last year, but the island has
only 63,000 rooms, and foreign visitors already face difficulties
finding accommodations. It’s for that reason that Airbnb has exploded in
Cuba – the fastest-growing market for the online home-rental service.

The additional air service also doesn’t eliminate many requirements that
American visitors must meet to travel to Cuba.

U.S. citizens still must comply with U.S. restrictions on Cuban visits,
which are limited 12 approved travel categories outlined by the U.S.
Department of Treasury.

U.S. travelers also need a Cuban visa and are required to purchase a
non-U.S. medical insurance policy. The Cuban Embassy sells such
short-term policies.

Tummino of the Americas Society said the approval of the new flights
should increase pressure on Congress to lift the travel ban altogether.

“The fact that we haven’t been able to have commercial travel to
the island for decades is a big deal,” Tummino said. “And it’s a big
deal that these restrictions are now being lifted. It shows that we’re
taking a step forward. But it also points out that we have some work to
do in Congress to pass legislation to lift the travel ban.”

Different airlines will fly to different cities. American Airlines,
which has a hub at the Miami International Airport, will fly to five
cities starting in September. The airline will offer two flights daily
between Miami and Holguin, Santa Clara and Varadero, and one daily
flight between Miami and Camagüey and Cienfuegos.

JetBlue will fly to Santa Clara, Camagüey and Holguín from Fort
Lauderdale. Robin Hayes, president and chief executive officer of
JetBlue, described the three cities as part of the “authentic island,”
where customers can experience Colonial architecture, parks and plazas.

“Today’s news is historic on many fronts, especially for the families
who, for the first time in generations, will have affordable
award-winning air travel to visit their loved ones,” Hayes said in a

The routes offered by other airlines were listed in a fact sheet
distributed by the Department of Transportation.

Source: Why isn’t Havana among Cuban cities U.S. airlines can now serve?
| In Cuba Today –

4 Responses to Why isn’t Havana among Cuban cities U.S. airlines can now serve?

  • Let us hope that these new flights will be available to citizens of countries other than just the USA.

    • Flights are open to all passengers, William. Why would you assume otherwise?

      • Thanks; I am delighted with this news. Under the present restrictions only those US citizens with special permission, or ex-Cubans, can take the US-Cuba flights. They are not open to the citizens of other countries. I have read this in many reference books, and on a visit to Miami a few years ago I checked it for myself. I saw a flight to Havana on the Departures screen at MIA, and went to the gate to see those checking in. They consisted of US diplomats working at the Interests Section (as it was) and returning Cuban-Americans. I asked the check-in attendant if people from other countries eg UK, could buy tickets, and was told, definitely not. I made a quick call to AA reservatiions, who confirmed that any nationality can book, providing they have a Cuban tourist card and it is a return trip.

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