U.S.-Cuba Flights Get Green Light

American, Frontier, JetBlue, Silver, Southwest, and Sun Country Airlines Get OK

Trinidad, Cuba
© Chris Brown/CC by 2.0

Ten U.S. airlines are now approved to begin scheduled flights from the United States to Cuba, beginning as soon as fall 2016. Previously, only chartered flights were permitted between the two countries.

The announcement from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) sets the stage for truly opening up Cuba to American tourists, who will soon be able to book flights to the Caribbean island as easily as they would any other international destination. The announcement is part of the sweeping changes to U.S.-Cuba relations that have included permitted Americans to travel freely to Cuba for the first time in more than half a century and the reopening of the U.S. embassy in Havana.

10 Airlines, 13 U.S. Cities, 10 Cuban Destinations

The airlines given the green light for Cuba flights include Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways, Silver Airways, Spirit Airlines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, and Sun Country Airlines. Flights will originate in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Chicago, Charlotte, Philadelphia, New York, Atlanta, Orlando, Tampa, Newark, Houston, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis/St. Paul. 

Cuban destinations include Havana, Camagüey, Cayo Coco, Cayo Largo, Cienfuegos, Holguín, Manzanillo, Matanzas, Santa Clara, and Santiago de Cuba. 

The agreement between the U.S. and Cuba allows for up to 20 daily flights to Havana and up to 10 daily roundtrip flights to each of the other destinations. Not all of the slots have been filled, so more service announcements are expected.

"Last year, President Obama announced that it was time to ‘begin a new journey’ with the Cuban people," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in announcing the first round of approved airines and flights . "Today, we are delivering on his promise by re-launching scheduled air service to Cuba after more than half a century."

Who's Flying Where

The breakdown on the initial U.S. Cuba flight service is as follows:

  • Alaska Airlines: Daily service between Los Angeles and Havana.
  • American Airlines: Four daily flights between Miami and Havana; one daily flight between Charlotte and Havana. Twice-daily service between Miami and Santa Clara, Holguin, and Matanzas; once-daily service between Miami and Camaguey and Cienfuegos.
  • Delta Air Lines: Daily flights between Havana and New York, Miami, and Atlanta.
  • Frontier Airlines: One daily flight between Miami and Havana. Daily service between Chicago-O'Hare and Santiago de Cuba; weekly Saturday flights between Chicago-O’Hare and Matanzas and Philadelphia and Matanzas; Philadelphia-Camagüey service on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays; Philadelphia-Santa Clara on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays)
  • JetBlue Airways: Twice daily flights between Fort Lauderdale and Havana; daily service between Havana and New York/JFK and Orlando Daily flights between Fort Lauderdale and Camagüey, Holguin, and Santa Clara.
  • Silver Airways: Daily flights between Fort Lauderdale and Holguin, Santa Clara, and Santiago de Cuba;   Fort Lauderdale-Camagüey daily except Mondays and Fridays; Fort Lauderdale-Cayo Coco on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays; Fort Lauderdale-Cayo Largo del Sur on Saturdays; Fort Lauderdale-Cienfuegos on Mondays and Fridays; Fort Lauderdale-Manzanillo on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; Fort Lauderdale-Matanzas on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
  • Spirit Airlines: Twice daily service between Fort Lauderdale and Havana.
  • Southwest Airlines: Twice daily between Fort Lauderdale and Havana and Matanzas; once daily between Fort Lauderdale and Santa Clara and Tampa and Havana.
  • Sun Country Airlines: Weekly Sunday flights between Minneapolis and Santa Clara and weekly Saturday flights between Minneapolis and Matanzas. 
  • United Airlines: Daily service between Newark and Havana; weekly Saturday flights between Houston and Havana.

How and When Can You Buy Tickets?

Tickets to Cuba will be sold just like any other seats on U.S. airlines. The airlines authorized by DOT still must get approval from the Cuban government and make local arrangements with airports to begin service. "Most of the airlines propose to begin their services in the fall and winter of 2016/2017, and will likely begin selling tickets well in advance of their planned startup dates," according to the DOT.

Note that certain restrictions on travel by Americans to Cuba remain in place despite the broader range of transportation options to the islands.

The agreement on U.S. Cuba flights allow for unlimited charter flights between the two countries, so those flights are unaffected by this new announcement.