Airports, Airlines, Aviation

Airlines flying US-Cuba routes

Last year, I was able to make it to Cuba before the US eased travel restrictions and airlines flying US-Cuba routes started hitting the news. In today’s blog, I’m going to explore some of the ways you’ll be able to get to Cuba more easily from the US. US Airlines are all competing for some of the hottest routes out there right now, and consumers always win with airline competition (as explained here). Even though these are still charter flights (e.g. Visa restrictions apply), they will be open to the general public soon. Thanks to the guy sitting next to me on the Frontier flight I took from SNA to DEN last week for the blog idea!

Airlines flying US-Cuba routes - rolling out now!
Airlines flying US-Cuba routes

In May 2016, a deal was announced between the US and Cuba to open up 110 flights to Cuba on U.S. airlines. 20 of the those routes will include Havana, with 10 daily flights allowed on routes to each of Cuba’s nine other international airports. After that announcement, there was a 15 day window for airlines to apply. Given the limited slots in to and out of Havana, competing prospective airlines flying US-Cuba routes have waged aggressive campaigns to win those rights, and are now starting their marketing campaigns to win market share.

Airlines flying US-Cuba routes

There are several airlines flying US-Cuba routes in the near future competing for your travel dollar in the later half of 2016. The Department of Transportation’s selection process for those flights has been complicated because airlines have requested far more routes than are available under the U.S. agreement with Cuba. The six airlines that won those rights are:

  • Alaska Airlines. Update! As of Jul 07, 2016, Alaska Airlines has also thrown its hat in the ring with a tentative go-ahead by the US government. The airlines plans on operating a Boeing 737-900ER aircraft, capable of carrying 181 passengers, between LAX and HAV. Each daily flight would begin in Seattle, then stop over in Los Angeles, with same-plane service continuing to Havana. The return flight would retrace that route.
    • Update: Alaska Airlines will fly to Havana from Seattle via Los Angeles starting Jan. 5. This route is now live!
  • American Airlines. With inaugural flights starting September 7, AA has even set up a website explaining its Cuba offering. All flights will be departing from Miami (MIA) (an airport covered in the tripchi airport app).
    • For travel beginning September 7, 2016
      • Cienfuegos (CFG)
      • Holguín (HOG)
    • For travel beginning September 9, 2016
      • Camagüey (CMW)
      • Santa Clara (SNU)
    • For travel beginning September 11, 2016
      • Varadero (VRA)]
    • Update: Weak demand has caused AA to drop one of the two daily flights that it currently flies between Miami and each of the Cuban cities of Holguin, Santa Clara and Varadero.
  • Delta. And, Delta is in the fray as well. Delta Airlines flying US-Cuba routes would serve the flights from Atlanta and JFK with the Boeing 757-200, and Miami and Orlando with the Boeing 737-800. More details have not yet been released.
    • Update: Delta will fly to Havana from Atlanta, Miami and New York JFK starting 1 Dec, 2016.
  • Frontier. Denver’s very own ultra low-cost carrier will be the first LCC to offer flights to Cuba, as early as October. You can read more about Frontier’s application here.
    • Chicago and Philadelphia to Camaguey, Matanzas, Santa Clara and Santiago de Cuba
    • Denver to Havana. Nonstop daily flights between Denver and Havana
    • Miami to Havana. Additional daily flights planned. Update: route will be launched 1 Dec, 2016.
  • JetBlue. An East coast favorite, JetBlue, has also committed to routes this fall, but without set dates at this time. JetBlue’s first regularly scheduled flights to Cuba began on Aug 31, with fares beginning at $99 one-way on this route. JetBlue initially operated three flights a week before going to daily service on Oct. 1.
    • Fort Lauderdale to Camagüey – began Nov 3
    • Fort Lauderdale to Holguín – began Nov 10
    • Fort Lauderdale to Santa Clara
    • Fort Lauderdale to Havana – starting Nov 30 – daily non-stop service, with a second daily flight (except for Saturdays) starting on Dec 1.
  • United. It wouldn’t be a party without United, which has also applied for one of the coveted Havana slots.
    • Newark to Havana. 11 flights per week, with year-round daily service and Saturday only service.
      • Update: United’s first Havana flights launch on 29 Nov, 2016.
    • Houston, Washington, D.C. and Chicago to Havana. Year-round Saturday service.
      United Airlines flying US to Cuba routes
      United Airlines flying US to Cuba routes
  • Silver Airways. I honestly hadn’t even heard of Silver Airways before writing this blog, despite being in the travel industry for a decade. But hey, another option if you’re looking for an airline flying US-Cuba routes.
    • Fort Lauderdale – Santa Clara starting September 1, 2016 (three weekly flights, daily starting October 13)
    • Fort Lauderdale – Camagüey starting October 13, 2016 (five weekly flights)
    • Fort Lauderdale – Cienfuegos starting October 21, 2016 (two weekly flights)
    • Fort Lauderdale – Holguín starting October 27, 2016 (daily)
    • Fort Lauderdale – Santiago starting November 3, 2016 (daily)
    • Fort Lauderdale – Cayo Coco starting November 17, 2016 (three weekly flights)
    • Fort Lauderdale – Varadero starting December 2, 2016 (four weekly flights)
    • Fort Lauderdale – Cayo Largo starting December 10, 2016 (one weekly flight)
    • Fort Lauderdale – Manzanillo starting December 16, 2016 (three weekly flights)
  • Southwest. Southwest has put together the best tagline and future placeholder for a buzzworthy campaign, creating a website to showcase its “Countdown to Cuba”. Update: Service to Havana finally launched, read more here.
    • Ft. Lauderdale to Varadero and Santa Clara (Nov 13): read about it here. Southwest Flight 3914 left Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport to Varadero, Cuba at 11 a.m.
    • Ft. Lauderdale, Tampa Bay, and Orlando to Havana (Dec 12)
  • Spirit (update).
    • Fort Lauderdale to Havana starting on 1 Dec, 2016.
  • Sun Country. The last airline that has applied so far is Sun Country., out of Minnesota (home airport: MSP). It has already been flying US-Cuba routes since March 2015, but is looking to expand its footprint in winter or early spring 2017.
    • MSP to Santa Clara
    • MSP to Havana

While this list may change/update in the coming months as the Cuban government approves the airlines as well, this blog should start to give you a sense of the magnitude of the impact on the travel industry that the thawing US-Cuban relationship should have. We will try to keep it up to date with the ever-growing list of airlines flying US-Cuba routes, and will also keep you posted on easing of Visa restrictions as well. As of now, you still have to fall in to one of the 12 categories to be able to go legally.

Happy travels!

Update: Aug 31, 2016 – The first commercial flight between the US and Cuba in over 50 years happened today. JetBlue Flight 387 took off from FLL at 945AM and landed in Santa Clara, Cuba 72 minutes later.


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