On Monday, American Airlines was the first commercial flight to land in Havana in more than five decades. American Airlines Flight 17 was the first to touch down at Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport after a quick jump from Miami. Other smaller Cuban cities have had daily service since September, but Monday's flight was the first to the capital city.
Back in June, The US Department of Transportation (DOT) 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. Later the DOT announced that eight carriers would begin scheduled flights to Cuba's capital city of Havana (schedule below). Those carriers are: Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines and United Airlines.
US Airlines flying to Havana:
- Alaska Airlines
- Los Angeles (start 1/5/17)
- American Airlines
- Miami, Charlotte (start 11/29)
- Delta Airlines
- Miami, New York, Atlanta (start 12/1)
- Frontier Airlines
- Miami (start 12/1)
- JetBlue Airways
- Orlando, Fort Lauderdale (start 11/30)
- Southwest Airlines
- Tampa, Fort Lauderdale (start 12/12)
- Spirit Airlines
- Fort Lauderdale (start 12/1)
- United Airlines
- New York, Houston (start (11/29)
It’s important to note that Americans still can’t visit Cuba legally without falling under one of the 12 categories of allowed travel. I traveled to Havana 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 appears 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. All you need to do is check a box when you are booking your flight that you qualify under one of the 12 categories.
Travel to Cuba is now as easy as booking a flight 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 I was there in 2015, the infrastructure (roads/buildings) still needed a lot of work, and wifi and phone service were tough to find or not really an option. Because of this, I think it will still be quite awhile before your average American tourist will be booking a trip. We recommend going ASAP to experience the island before it becomes another commercialized destination.