Flying from the United States to Cuba’s capital became more of viable possibility Thursday morning as the Department of Transportation (DOT) tentatively awarded flights to eight different domestic airlines.
The move—and everything is tentative at this point—would give 10 U.S. airports at least one weekly nonstop flight to Havana. In total, the DOT approved 14 different daily routes to Havana and as well as one route that would get Saturday-only service.
These aren’t the first green-lighted flights to Cuba. Last month, the DOT approved six airlines to fly from five U.S. destinations to nine Cuban cities other than Havana. According to an article in USA Today, the DOT held off on its decision for the Havana routes because U.S. airlines applied for a number flights that far exceeded what’s initially being allowed to the Cuban capital.
“Only 20 daily round-trip flights between the USA and Havana are permitted under the loosened U.S.-Cuba flight restrictions, but U.S. carriers requested nearly three times as many flights,” the article read. “Given the demand, the DOT awarded the Havana flights to the U.S. carriers that it thought provided the most-compelling route applications.”
The clear winners? American, for one, which received the highest number of daily flights to Havana, winning four from Miami and one from Charlotte. JetBlue also won big—once Thursday’s outline is formalized, the airline will run four daily flights to Havana from three destinations: Fort Lauderdale, New York, and Orlando.
Delta was awarded three daily flights, including one from Atlanta, New York, and Miami. Alaska Airlines received only one flight to Havana, but the flight would be from Los Angeles, making it the only Havana route from the West Coast.
Under the plan as it stands now, Southwest would operate two daily flights from Fort Lauderdale and one from Tampa, United would have one weekly (Saturday only) flight from Houston and one daily flight from Newark; Spirit would get two daily flights from Fort Lauderdale, and Frontier would run one daily flight from Miami.
Airlines have until July 22 to respond to the DOT’s plans. The agency has said it expects to reach a final decision later this summer.
It’s worth noting that throughout history, the DOT’s tentative decisions in distributing routes usually end up becoming final. Even if this situation leads to disputes, the bottom line is that nonstop flights to Havana from U.S. cities are getting closer no matter what.
Matt Villano is a freelance writer and editor based in Healdsburg, California. In nearly 20 years as a full-time freelancer, he has covered travel for publications including TIME, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Sunset, Backpacker, Entrepreneur, and more. He contributes to the Expedia Viewfinder blog and writes a monthly food column for Islands magazine. Villano also serves on the board of the Family Travel Association and blogs about family travel at Wandering Pod. Learn more about him at Whalehead.com
© 2016 AFAR Media