The US Department of Transportation (DOT) has granted six US airlines approval to offer the first commercial flights to Cuba in more than 50 years.
The carriers approved are American Airlines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Silver Airways, Southwest Airlines and Sun Country Airlines, according to a DOT announcement.
The airlines were approved to serve the nine Cuban cities of Camaguey, Holguin, Santa Clara, Cienfuegos, Varadero, Santiago de Cuba, Cayo Coco, Cayo Largo del Sur and Manzanillo.
For the Cuban capital of Havana, the DOT is still considering which airlines will get the 20 daily flights out of 60 proposals. This is reported to be announced later this summer.
Most routes are expected to open within the next 90 days, with JetBlue pegging September 8 as its kick-off date.
“Today’s news is historic on many fronts, especially for the families who, for the first time in generations, will have affordable air travel to visit their loved ones,” said JetBlue’s President and CEO, Robin Hayes.
American Airlines executive vice president of corporate affairs. Steve Johnson said: “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.”
The 50-year ban on commercial air travel to Cuba was lifted in February this year, but US law still prohibits travel to the island for tourist activities. US citizens can only fly to Cuba for family visits, education reasons, journalism or government work.
“This is the latest in a series of baby steps toward the normalization of US-Cuban relations, but many big issues remain before US investors will be comfortable investing in Cuba,” stated Sean Goforth, Research Director at Nearshore Americas