Historic JetBlue Flight Touches Down In Cuba

Earlier today, for the first time in more than 50 years, a commercial flight from the United States landed on the island of Cuba. JetBlue flight #387 touched down around 11AM after departing Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) and landing in Santa Clara, Cuba (SNU) with around 150 people on board. Most of the flight was reported to be filled with members of the media, JetBlue executives and other VIPs, however there were roughly 60 regular passengers on board. Both the Captain (Mark Luaces) and First Officer (Francesco Barreras) are the sons of Cuban immigrants who came to the United States decades ago, which I think is a thoughtful touch from JetBlue.

Back in June, The US Department of Transportation announced that six airlines had received approval to fly to Cuba as soon as this fall, although they hadn’t yet announced any routes from the US to the capital city of Havana. As of this afternoon, the US department of transportation announced that eight carriers will begin scheduled flights to Cuba’s capital city of Havana as early as this fall. Those carriers are: Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines and United Airlines. The flights will provide service to Havana from Atlanta; Charlotte, North Carolina; Ft. Lauderdale; Houston; Los Angeles; Miami; Newark, New Jersey; New York City; Orlando, Florida; and Tampa, Florida. The big winner today appears to be American Airlines which will have four daily flights from Miami and one daily flight from Charlotte, NC to Havana. Including cities outside of Havana, the approved US departure and Cuban destination cities are now as follows:

 

Approved Airlines:
  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • Delta Airlines
  • Frontier Airlines
  • JetBlue Airways
  • Silver Airways
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Spirit Airlines
  • Sun Country Airlines
  • United Airlines
US Departure Cities: 
  • Atlanta
  • Chicago
  • Charlotte
  • Fort Lauderdale
  • Houston
  • Los Angeles
  • Miami
  • Minneapolis/St. Paul
  • Newark
  • New York City
  • Orlando
  • Philadelphia
  • Tampa Bay
Cuban Destinations:
  • Camagüey
  • Cayo Coco
  • Cayo Largo
  • Cienfuegos
  • Havana
  • Holguín
  • Manzanillo
  • Matanzas
  • Santa Clara
  • Santiago de Cuba

 

It’s important to note that Americans still can’t visit Cuba legally without falling under one of the 12 categories of allowed travel. Mr. TT traveled under the “journalism” justification back in April ’15 and had no issues, even when questioned at US Customs in Minneapolis. We have not heard of a single report of someone being detained for not falling under the 12 categories. It seems US Customs is not enforcing the travel restrictions since US-Cuban relations have been on the mend. As long as you somehow justify your trip you should be good to go. It sounds like this fall you will simply check which category you qualify under online when you book your flight.

 

Bottom Line

Travel to Cuba is soon going to be as easy as booking a flight through your favorite US airline to any other Caribbean destination.  It will be interesting to see what impact the influx of new travelers will have on the Cuban economy. We have already seen Starwood sign a deal to bring three new hotels to the island. When Mr. TT was there in 2015, he reported that the infrastructure still needed a lot of work, and that wifi and phone service were tough to find or not really an option. Because of this, I think it will still be quite a while before your average American tourist would want to travel to the island, as it is not your typical full-service Caribbean destination. Cuba is a unique gem in the Caribbean and I hope to travel there soon.

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