Airlines in holding pattern as DOT defers action on Cuba

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Airlines in holding pattern as DOT defers action on Cuba

Unread post by bimjim » Fri Jan 23, 2015

http://www.travelweekly.com/Caribbean-T ... ba-routes/

Airlines in holding pattern as DOT defers action on Cuba routes
Gay Nagle Myers
January 22, 2015

Several U.S. airlines are eager to jump into the Cuba market, and many U.S. travelers are just as eager to experience this destination. But for now they are still relegated to charter flights, even though some legacy carriers have dormant U.S.-Cuba routes.

To level the playing field, the Transportation Department (DOT) declared that those long-dormant routes will stay dormant, so that no one carrier has an advantage over another as the market reopens.

“The U.S. government will engage with the government of Cuba to assess our aviation relations and establish a bilateral basis for further expansion of air services,” Susan Kurland, assistant secretary for aviation and international affairs, said in a statement. “With regard to U.S. carrier authority to serve Cuba, DOT has previously stated that we would take a fresh look at the market.”

The DOT has deferred any action on air service to Cuba until further notice.

Charter approval for carriers currently operating flights to Cuba remains unchanged.

The DOT did note that it anticipates that a number of U.S. air carriers “will be interested in taking advantage of these new opportunities.”

Indeed, interest is high.

American said it is reviewing the changes to Cuba travel policy and pointed out that the bilateral agreement needs to be renegotiated before any regularly scheduled service can begin.

“We will continue to be guided by the laws and policies of our government and the governments of the countries we serve as they evolve,” an American representative said. “We are the leading carrier in the Caribbean and have served Cuba for more than 15 years with charter flights from Miami and Tampa.”

JetBlue, which has operated a Cuba charter service for more than three years to and from Fort Lauderdale and Tampa to Havana as well as a Tampa-Santa Clara flight, “is interested in providing additional service to Cuba from multiple U.S. cities as soon as legally permitted,” according to Robert Land, senior vice president of government affairs and general counsel.

He said that the strength of JetBlue’s existing charter program “has provided us with a strong foundation” for future expansion in Cuba. The New York-based carrier applauded a recent initiative by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to lead one of the first state trade missions to Cuba in the coming months.

“The governor’s vision for shaping responsible economic development with Cuba helps our home state compete on the world stage,” Land said.

While United has no specific details about potential schedules, the carrier “will look to begin scheduled services from Newark and Houston to Cuba,” according to a representative.

Havana has been on United’s route map for a number of years. Clearly, there are no regular United flights from the U.S. to Cuba now, but Havana is designated as a city served by select airline partners.

United and Air Canada are members of the Star Alliance, and Air Canada flies the Toronto-Havana route.

A Southwest Airlines spokesman said, “Cuba is an intriguing possibility that we are studying for the future. Delta, too, anticipates expanding service into Cuba “as opportunities become available,” according to a representative.

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