people to people travel to cuba

Commercial Flights to Cuba Are About to Take Off

Linda Jacky Legal Travel To Cuba, People to People Travel to Cuba

legal travel to cuba

With the recent agreement between the United States and Cuba to resume commercial air travel between the two countries, eight United States-based airlines have applied to provide daily round-trip flights to Cuba. The agreement allows for commercial travel for the first time in more than 50 years, and American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines are eager to provide service for this historic development in the travel world.

A New Era for Travel to Cuba

With pending applications submitted to the Department of Transportation, the number of requests currently exceed the daily cap that was outlined in the agreement. Havana will be able to accommodate up to 20 daily commercial flights, and additional flights can serve nine other cities in Cuba.

  • Delta Air Lines and American Airlines

    Delta Air Lines and American Airlines have both applied to provide flights to Havana from New York, Atlanta, Miami and Orlando. American Airlines has also asked for approval to provide flights from Chicago, Charlotte, Dallas and Los Angeles. In addition to service to Havana, American Airlines has requested the opportunity to serve Santa Clara, Holguin, Varadero, Camaguey and Cienfuegos.

  • JetBlue

    JetBlue has applied for flights from Boston, Fort Lauderdale, New York, Newark, Orlando and Tampa with destinations in four Cuban cities, including Havana, Camaguey, Holguin and Santa Clara.

  • United Airlines

    United Airlines has asked for the opportunity to provide flights from Chicago, Houston, New York, Newark, and Washington, D.C.

  • Alaska Airlines and Southwest Airlines

    Alaska Airlines has asked for non-stop flights from Los Angeles. Southwest Airlines would like to fly to Cuba from Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and Orlando, and provide service to Varadero and Santa Clara in addition to Havana.

  • Frontier Airlines

    Frontier Airlines has requested the opportunity to offer service from Denver, Miami, Chicago and Philadelphia, serving the Cuban cities of Havana, Santiago, Camaguey, Santa Clara and Varadero.

  • Silver Airways

    Silver Airways is a regional airline in Florida, and they want to fly to Havana and nine other Cuban cities. Service would originate in West Palm Beach, Fort Myers, Fort Lauderdale, Key West and Jacksonville.

legal travel to cuba

The Embargo and Continued Travel Restrictions

The 1960 embargo still stands, so tourists will not be allowed to fly to Cuba. Travel plans for individuals and groups must be approved through the United States government, and they will be granted under specific cultural or academic criteria, including educational and people to people travel, professional research, family visits, journalism and humanitarian work. Cuba reopened its Washington, D.C. embassy in 2015 and the United States has also reopened its embassy in Cuba. Visa requirements mean travelers will need to plan their trips to Cuba well in advance of the anticipated date with applications to the government.

Improved Relations and Travel Opportunities

The addition of commercial flights to Cuba is just one more step towards good relations between these two neighboring countries. The addition of commercial travel options also means that flights will become more convenient from a multitude of locations. Travelers can also make arrangements for educational tours through established travel companies such as ATI. Charter flights will also continue to serve Cuba. Including charters, up to 110 flights to Cuba will be permitted each day. This is more than five times the current number of non-commercial flights to Cuba, so it is a very large increase.

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A Summer Announcement

With Havana the most sought-after destination, the decisions about which airlines will be allowed to provide flights may take some time with an announcement expected in the summer of 2016. The requests for flights to smaller cities in Cuba may be decided earlier due to less competition. All requests must be carefully considered for a variety of issues and needs as well. Airlines will then create schedules, sell flights and also apply to the civil aviation authority in Cuba for a permit. Most airplanes will be large enough to seat 160 passengers on each flight.

Current Charter Carriers to Cuba

American Airlines has a large hub in Miami and has provided many charters to Cuba in past years. In 2015, Cuba operated 1,084 charter flights to Cuba, and they have requested commercial flight opportunities that will allow them to enhance their current services to Cuba. Many Cuban-Americans live in Miami, so it is a popular travel route for travel, including visits to family members. Among the other carriers, JetBlue Airways provided 221 charter flights to Cuba in 2015, and Delta Air Lines provided four charter flights.

Public Comment Opportunity

There is a window open for public comment until March 21, 2016, and after that time the Department of Transportation will begin discussions and the decision-making process for granting access for commercial flights to Cuba.

ATI’s Educational and Cultural Tours

ATI is pleased to continue offering authorized people-to-people travel and custom educational tours utilizing charter flights to Cuba. The addition of commercial flights will only allow us to expand and offer more of our high-quality tours to many historic and cultural destinations in Cuba.


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