AP reporter returns to Cuba on 1st commercial flight from US

Cheryl Sanders
September 1, 2016

Secretary of State John Kerry tweeted that it is the first USA commercial flight to Cuba in more than half a century, describing it as "another step" forward in restoring ties. "Why not be able to export goods to them?" he said.

Among the passengers were U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes, according to The Associated Press.

Earlier this summer, DOT announced the approval of six USA passenger airlines and one all-cargo airline to serve cities in Cuba other than Havana. Service is expected to begin in November, the airline said at the time. 51 minutes later, the plane touched down safely in Santa Clara, Cuba.

Cuban officials insist the continuing US ban on tourism will limit the impact of commercial flights to Cuba, but some experts believe the drastic reduction in the difficulty of flying to Cuba could turn the surge in USA visitors into a tidal wave.

An initial agreement for resuming commercial flights, ending decades of estrangement and sanctions on the communist regime of former Cuban President Fidel Castro, was reached last February.

The airlines receiving the Havana awards include network, low-cost, and ultra low cost carriers - Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, and United Airlines. Collectively, the airlines applied for almost 60 flights per day to Havana, exceeding the 20 daily flights made available by the arrangement between the two governments.

Meanwhile, Delta Air Lines revealed this week that it has been granted permission to launch daily flights from Atlanta, Miami and NY to Havana from 1 December 2016, and Alaska Airlines has been given the right to launch flights between Los Angeles and the Cuban capital.

DOT's main objective in making its selections was to maximize public benefits, including choosing airlines that offered and could maintain the best service between the USA and Havana. The department also gave priority to applicants representing regions with substantial Cuban-American populations, such as South Florida, as well as to several aviation hubs, such as Charlotte.

Other reports by iNewsToday