U.S. to Allow Eight Airlines to Fly to Havana
Flights could begin as early as this fall, government says
A Delta Airlines jet takes off from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida in 2013. PHOTO: KAREN BLEIER/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
By JOSHUA JAMERSONUpdated July 7, 2016 11:57 a.m. ET
Eight airlines could start operating as many as 20 daily flights from the U.S. to Havana as early as this fall, the Obama administration said Thursday, the latest move to normalize relations with Cuba.
The airlines the U.S. said could start service are Alaska Air GroupInc., American Airlines Group Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc., Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways Corp., Southwest Airlines Co., Spirit Airlines Inc. and United Continental Holdings Inc.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx made the announcement Thursday, calling the move part of President Barack Obama’s plan to restore diplomatic ties with the Communist island nation. Mr. Foxx said the proposal could reunite Cuban-American families and encourage opportunities for American businesses. The U.S. and Cuba agreed to thaw relations in 2014 after 50 years of hostility.
The proposal is expected to be completed this summer, with flights starting in late 2016 or early 2017.
The government said scheduled flights would be allowed between Havana and Atlanta, Charlotte, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, New York City, Orlando, and Tampa. The plan aims to focus the nonstop Havana service to areas of “substantial Cuban-American population,” as well as to important aviation hubs, according to a statement from the department.
The secretary said the department received applications from a dozen airlines, who collectively applied for more than 60 flights.
“In the end, we chose airlines that could offer and maintain the best ongoing service between the U.S. and Havana,” Mr. Foxx said.
United’s stock rose 2.7% in morning trading in New York as Delta rose 2%, American rose 3% and Southwest rose 1.7%. Shares of JetBlue rose 1.8%, Alaska increased 2.3% and Spirit climbed 3.2%.
Mr. Obama has made it much easier for Americans to legally travel to Cuba, essentially lifting a 50-year prohibition against visiting the island as tourists. In March, the administration unveiled plans to allow American travelers to go to Cuba and justify a visit simply by filling their schedules with what most would consider tourist activities, such as visiting galleries and eating in privately owned restaurants.
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