When Will U.S. Carriers Commence Commercial Service to Cuba?
Written by Maribeth L. Minella
EVP & Corporate Counsel, World Travel, Inc.
Answer: Maybe as soon as August 2016.
Since December 2014, when President Obama announced changes to the U.S. sanctions against Cuba, U.S. airlines have been preparing for a time when they can resume commercial service to Cuba. On February 16, 2016, the U.S. and Cuba signed an arrangement that “provides for the re-establishment of scheduled air services” between the U.S. and Cuba. The arrangement permits each country with the opportunity to operate up to twenty daily round trip flights between the U.S. and each of Cuba’s nine airports; a total of 110 daily round trip flights between the U.S. and Cuba. On According to Doug Parker, Chairman and CEO of American Airlines, “In many ways American has been preparing for this day for decades.”
By order dated February 16, 2016, the U.S. Department of Transportation instituted the 2016 U.S.-Cuba Frequency Allocation Proceeding, Docket DOT-OST-2016-0021, and invited applications from U.S. carriers to determine which carrier(s) should be selected to operate (i) twenty daily round-trip frequencies to Havana and (ii) ten daily round-trip frequencies for each other Cuban airport.
U.S. carriers had to submit route applications and justifications for exemption to provide service to Cuba by March 2, 2016. In addition to American Airlines, the following carriers submitted applications: Frontier, Alaska, Southwest, Delta, Silver Airways Corp., Dynamic International Airways, United, Spirit, Federal Express, JetBlue, Sun Country Airlines, and Eastern Air Lines.
No later than March 14, 2016, applicants had to file answers to other carrier’s replies (essentially a step to further justify their own application). Replies were due March 21, 2016. Thereafter, the U.S. Department of Transportation will issue an order granting (or denying) applications.
Most U.S. carriers that applied expect to commence service to Cuba sometime this Summer.
Continue to check World Travel, Inc.’s blog or our Corporate Travel & Supplier Newsletters for more news about travel to Cuba.