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American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and four others get approval to fly to Cuba

American Airlines Wants To Fly To Cuba

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker talks about the carrier's plans to fly to Cuba, pending government approval. (Video courtesy of American Airlines) March 2, 2016.
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American Airlines CEO Doug Parker talks about the carrier's plans to fly to Cuba, pending government approval. (Video courtesy of American Airlines) March 2, 2016.

The first regularly scheduled daily commercial flights to Cuba will begin in September.

On Friday, the Transportation Department approved applications from six U.S. airlines, including American and Southwest, to offer service to several Cuban cities. However, the government is still considering which airlines will win the routes to fly into Cuba’s capital, Havana.

“Last year, President Obama announced that it was time to ‘begin a new journey’ with the Cuban people,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. “Today, we are delivering on his promise by re-launching scheduled air service to Cuba after more than half a century.”

Fort Worth-based American will fly daily flights from its hub in Miami to Santa Clara, Holguin, Matanzas, Camaguey and Cienfuegos. The carrier said it will use 160-seat Boeing 737-800s and 144-seat Airbus A319s on the route.

“The resumption of scheduled air service to Cuba is a historic achievement and we commend Secretary Foxx and his team for making it a reality,” said Steve Johnson, American’s executive vice president of corporate affairs. “We look forward to giving our customers direct access to Cuba and eagerly await the Department’s decision on flights to Havana.”

American has also asked to operate 10 daily flights between Miami and Havana along with flights from Charlotte, N.C.; Chicago; Los Angeles: and its hub at Dallas/Fort Worth. The department said a decision on the Havana routes will be made this summer.

In 2015, American operated 1,084 charter flights from the U.S. to Cuba that carried 222,228 passengers, the most of any U.S. airline. JetBlue Airways and Delta Air Lines also operated charters, 221 flights and four flights last year respectively.

None of American’s charter flights last year operated from DFW Airport. If the Transportation Department awards American a daily flight from DFW to Havana, it will be the first regularly scheduled service to Cuba from the airport.

Dallas-based Southwest will fly daily flights from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Santa Clara and Matanzas. The company said it plans to launch service this year.

“Southwest’s proposed service to Cuba will provide low-fare connections for our customers in dozens of U.S. cities,” Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins said in a statement. The carrier has also asked the department for authority to fly to Havana from Fort Lauderdale, Tampa Bay and Orlando, Fla..

In Friday’s ruling, the department also awarded five routes to Frontier Airlines, three to JetBlue, nine to Silver Airways and two to Sun Country.

Andrea Ahles: 817-390-7631, @Sky_Talk

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