As airlines begin to exercise their rights to fly to Havana, here's a primer on who's flying where—and how often.
When the historic agreement resuming air service between the U.S. and Cuba was inked earlier this year, it was assumed that a flotilla of new scheduled flights would unleash a surge of pent-up demand. The pact set a limit of 110 daily flights total to the island nation, with 20 a day to the biggest prize, Havana, and ten flights a day to nine other Cuban cities.
So where do things stand now? Airlines are just now starting to exercise their rights to fly to Havana; Southwest, for example, today begins non-stops from Fort Lauderdale and Tampa, and airlines like JetBlue and United recently began their first scheduled non-stops from the New York area to the city. Once Alaska Air launches its much-anticipated flights from Los Angeles to the Cuban capital on January 5, there will be either 19 or 20 daily flights from the States to Havana, depending on the day of the week. Most of these flights are via narrow-body 737 or A320 aircraft, with capacity ranging from 126 to 186 seats.
To points elsewhere in Cuba, there are around 18 to 25 daily non-stops in all (some operate just once or twice a week), from the U.S. to every other city in Cuba that was authorized by the air services agreement for U.S. service. That’s far less than what is permitted under the air travel agreement, and that’s to be expected: tourism to the island is still off-limits for most U.S. citizens, and travel to destinations such as the beach resort of Varadero might be harder to justify under current rules than an educational visit to Havana. Uncertainty over the new administration’s approach to Cuba, too, may also curb airlines’ enthusiasm for adding more capacity.
Here, in order of popularity, are U.S. cities now enjoying their first direct service to Cuba—and who’s flying there:
Miami: American flies four times a day to Havana, and Delta and Frontier operate once a day to the capital. American also operates a daily flight to each of five smaller cities: Camagüey and Cienfuegos, Holguin, Matanzas, and Santa Clara.
Fort Lauderdale: JetBlue offers twice daily flights to Havana and daily service to Camagüey, Holguin, and Santa Clara; Southwest flies twice daily to Havana and Matanzas, and once a day to Santa Clara. Silver Airways operates 34-seat turboprops to a number of cities from FLL, including daily flights to Holguin, Santa Clara, and Santiago de Cuba, and less frequent services (one to five times a week) to Camagüey, Cayo Coco, Cayo Largo del Sur, Cienfuegos, Manzanillo, and Matanzas.
New York JFK: JetBlue and Delta both fly daily to Havana
Orlando: JetBlue flies once a day to Havana
Tampa: Southwest serves Havana once a day
Newark: United flies once a day to Havana
Atlanta: Delta operates once a day to Havana
Charlotte: American, once a day to Havana
Los Angeles: Alaska will start daily flights to Havana on January 5
Houston: United, once a week to Havana (Saturdays)
Chicago: Frontier flies daily to Santiago de Cuba and once a week (Saturdays) to Matanzas
Philadelphia: Frontier operates four times a week to Camagüey, three times a week to Santa Clara, and once a week to Matanzas.
Minneapolis: Sun Country Airlines flies once a week to Matanzas and Santa Clara.
The new wave of scheduled flights has led to cutbacks in charters, which until recently offered the only way to fly from the U.S. to Cuba. Both American and JetBlue confirmed to Condé Nast Traveler that they’re no longer contracting with tour operators for charter flights. But however you get there, keep in mind that you still need to be able to show that the purpose of your trip fits one of the 12 approved categories for travel to the country.