“Today we take another important step toward delivering on President Obama’s promise to reengage Cuba,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Restoring regular air service holds tremendous potential to reunite Cuban American families and foster education and opportunities for American businesses of all sizes.”
A dozen U.S. airlines applied for the chance to operate scheduled passenger and cargo flights to Havana, Cuba. Collectively, the airlines applied for nearly 60 flights per day to Havana, exceeding the 20 daily flights made available by arrangement between the two governments. The Department’s principal objective in making its proposed selections was to maximize public benefits, including choosing airlines that offered and could maintain the best ongoing service between the U.S. and Havana.
The airlines receiving the tentative awards are Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, and United Airlines.
DOT’s proposal allocates nonstop flights to Havana, Cuba from areas of substantial Cuban-American population, as well as to important aviation hub cities.
The Department’s process of selecting carriers offers an opportunity to present the public with a wide array of travel choices in the type of airline (network, low-cost, ultra-low-cost); choices of airport; and choices of non-stop or connecting service. The DOT’s proposed selections would simultaneously address service needs while promoting competition.
On February 16, 2016, Secretary Foxx and Department of State Assistant Secretary for Economic and Business Affairs Charles Rivkin signed an arrangement with their Cuban counterparts opening the way for scheduled air service between the two countries to resume after more than 50 years. This new arrangement will facilitate visits for travelers that fall under one of 12 categories authorized by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. At the time of the signing, the administration announced that scheduled service would begin later in 2016.
Under the arrangement, each country may operate up to 20 daily roundtrip flights between the U.S. and Havana. The arrangement also provides each country with the opportunity to operate up to 10 daily roundtrip flights between the U.S. and each of Cuba’s nine international airports, other than Havana, for a total of 90 daily roundtrips. DOT announced the approval of six U.S. airlines’ applications to serve cities other than Havana on June 10, 2016.
Objections to the DOT’s tentative decision are due by July 22. If objections are filed, answers to objections will be due by July 29. The DOT expects to reach a final decision later this summer. The tentative decision and other documents in the case are available online at regulations.gov, docket DOT-OST-2016-0021.
A fact sheet on this issue may be found HERE.
It might be time to schedule that trip to Cuba. Within a couple of years, the island will look just like the U.S. with a McDonald’s every mile or so, a Ford dealer selling F-150s, and a 7-11 on every corner.