Published On: Fri, Mar 4th, 2016

Five US airlines submit applications for US-Cuba service

Havana CubaWASHINGTON, USA - On Wednesday, five US airlines: Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines JetBlue Southwest Airlines and United Airlines submitted applications to the US Department of Transportation for commercial air service on multiple routes between the US and Cuba.

The United States government last month signed an arrangement with Cuba to resume scheduled commercial air service between the countries. Wednesday was the deadline for North American carriers to apply for rights to serve routes between the countries.

Service to Cuba is expected to resume this year, allowing designated US carriers to operate a total of 20 daily round-trip flights between the US and Havana and ten daily round-trip flights to nine other Cuban cities with international airports.

Alaska Airlines is seeking approval to fly two daily nonstop flights from its Latin America gateway of Los Angeles to Havana using a Boeing 737-900ER, which carries 181 passengers in a two-class configuration.

Delta Air Lines seeks approval to serve Havana with daily flights from its hubs in Atlanta and New York's JFK International Airport as well as from Miami and Orlando.

Delta would operate the flights from Atlanta and JFK with the Boeing 757-200, and Miami and Orlando with the Boeing 737-800.

JetBlue proposes to fly 15 daily frequencies connecting four Cuban cities with six US cities, including the airline’s focus cities in South Florida, New York and Boston.

JetBlue anticipates a start date of September 8, 2016, or within 100 days after receipt of all necessary approvals, whichever is earlier.

JetBlue plans to offer service on its fuel efficient and state-of-the-art Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft, which it said are optimally sized for maximizing the public benefits with the few newly-available frequencies to Cuba.

JetBlue first began operating charters to Cuba in 2011 and now flies to Havana and Santa Clara from New York, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood, and Tampa. JetBlue plans to continue operating charter flights with its partners as the process of assigning frequencies for scheduled service flights proceeds.

Southwest Airlines requested governmental approval to serve Cuba with daily nonstop flights from the carrier's three busiest airports in Florida: Ft Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL); Tampa Bay International Airport (TPA); and Orlando International Airport (MCO).

The carrier applied to serve Havana (HAV) from all three Florida cities and additionally to serve Varadero (VRA) and Santa Clara (SNU) from Ft Lauderdale (Miami Area). Upon approval, Southwest intends to initiate service to Cuba later this year.

United Airlines submitted an application to provide service from four of its largest US gateway cities – Newark/New York, Houston, Washington, DC, and Chicago – to Havana's José Martí International Airport.

If approved, United will be one of the first U.S. airlines to offer customers daily, nonstop scheduled service to Cuba.

"This is a historic moment for our company, our employees and, most importantly, our customers," said Oscar Munoz, United's president and chief executive officer. "We want to be the first choice for passengers traveling between the U.S. and Cuba. We're able to offer customers the best access, convenience and connections to and from Havana through our industry-leading global route network, and we're excited to compete for this

United's proposal outlines its planned service to Havana from hubs serving four of the country's largest Cuban-American populations. The service would include a total of 11 roundtrip flights per week with daily service from Newark Liberty and one additional Saturday flight (eight weekly flights), along with a Saturday-only flight from Houston George Bush Intercontinental, Washington Dulles and Chicago O'Hare (three weekly flights).

Service to Havana on these routes will be operated with United Wi-Fi-equipped Boeing 737-800 two-cabin aircraft.

The DOT is expected to award the available route authorities before the end of summer.

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