Commercial Flights From the U.S. to Cuba to Resume

A new agreement will allow for direct flights between the two countries By: Kenneth Shapiro
Commercial flights will soon fly between the U.S. and Cuba. // © 2016 iStock
Commercial flights will soon fly between the U.S. and Cuba. // © 2016 iStock

The Details

U.S. Department of Transportation

The U.S. and Cuba signed an agreement earlier this month that enables direct commercial flights between the two countries for the first time in more than 50 years.

Why It Matters:
Under this agreement, each country can authorize up to 20 daily commercial roundtrip flights between the U.S. and Havana, as well as 10 additional flights to Cuba’s nine other international airports. A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Transportation said that the organization expects to announce this summer which airlines will fly to Havana and from where. Even without this agreement, Cuba led the way last year in tourism growth in the Caribbean, showing that consumer interest in the destination is strong. Simplifying the travel arrangements between the countries will certainly boost visitation even more.

Fast Facts:
- American, United, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest and Spirit have all said they plan to apply for Cuba route approvals.

- American released a public statement saying that the airline’s Latin America gateway hub at Miami International Airport will be included in the company’s application for scheduled service to Cuba, and that it’s also considering applying to serve Cuba from other hubs.

- Despite the agreement, for now leisure tourism to Cuba will remain strictly regulated, with U.S. citizens allowed to travel there for one of 12 approved reasons, including professional, educational, religious and humanitarian purposes.

- The aviation agreement doesn’t limit charter flights to Cuba, so some companies can continue booking flights without going through the new application process. However, charter services are expected to have difficulty competing against the new commercial flights once they begin.

- The Caribbean drew 28.7 million stopover arrivals in 2015, a 7 percent increase from the year before, and Cuba led the way with 17.4 percent growth, according to Caribbean Tourism Organization statistics.

What They Are Saying:
“We are excited to announce the availability of new scheduled air service opportunities to Cuba for U.S. carriers, shippers and the traveling public, and we will conduct this proceeding in a manner designed to maximize public benefits,” said Anthony Foxx, U.S. Transportation secretary.

“American Airlines commends the U.S. government for its commitment to re-establishing cultural and economic ties between the U.S. and Cuba, and for laying the groundwork to restore scheduled air service between the two countries for the first time in more than 50 years,” said Doug Parker, American’s chairman and CEO. “We applaud the Administration for making commercial air service a priority and we thank Secretary Foxx, Secretary Kerry and their teams for their leadership in finalizing this arrangement. American looks forward to submitting a Cuba service proposal to the Department of Transportation in the coming weeks.”

“The [National Tour Association] has consistently stated that normalized relations with Cuba would benefit the U.S economy and be a boon for the travel and tourism sector,” said a release from the organization. “Increased economic activity between the United States and Cuba will have a significantly positive impact on U.S. travel and tourism, the nation’s largest service export.”