Back in February, the DOT gave U.S. airlines the opportunity to bid on slots from the United States to Cuba. Bidding closed in May, and today U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has approved six airlines – American Airlines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Silver Airways, Southwest Airlines, and Sun Country Airlines – to begin scheduled flights between Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Minneapolis/St. Paul and Cuba as early as this fall.
The odd part of the decision to grant service released today is that the DOT did not award service to Havana, which is seen as the most desirable routes. According to the DOT press release:
Longer term, the arrangement also provides for up to 20 daily roundtrip flights between the U.S. and Havana. Collectively, U.S. carriers have requested nearly 60 flights per day to Havana, thus requiring DOT to select from among the proposals. A decision on the Havana routes will be announced later this summer.
The routes announced today are as follows:
The DOT also issued a downloadable Fact Sheet about the ruling, including Questions and Answers:
Q. When can I buy a ticket for a scheduled flight to Cuba?
A. The airlines authorized by DOT are now positioned to seek Cuban government authority and begin making the local arrangements necessary to launch their services. Most of the airlines propose to begin their services in the fall and winter of 2016/2017, and will likely begin selling tickets well in advance of their planned startup dates.
Q. How can I buy a ticket?
A. Most of the airlines propose to begin their services in the fall and winter of 2016/2017 and will likely begin selling tickets well in advance of their planned startup dates. Airlines will need to market and sell tickets consistent with the laws, regulations, and requirements that remain in affect concerning travel to Cuba. Travelers should check directly with the airlines for details.
Q. When will flights start?
A. The airlines have proposed varying startup dates for their services, but most are planned for fall and winter 2016/2017. DOT’s order contains requirements that the carriers begin their services within 90 days of the dates the airlines proposed in their applications.
While today’s DOT decision is exciting, I think the Havana slots will be the most lucrative. It will be interesting to who the DOT will grant those slots to later this summer. Stay tuned!