6 Airlines Cleared for Cuba, but Big Restrictions Remain

Cuba
Sabino Parente / Shutterstock.com

It just became a lot easier to travel to Cuba — although restrictions remain on visitors.

The U.S. Department of Transportation, or DOT, announced Friday that it has cleared six domestic airlines to begin a limited number of scheduled flights to the Caribbean island nation.

Those airlines are:

  • American Airlines
  • Frontier Airlines
  • JetBlue Airways
  • Silver Airways
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Sun Country Airlines

The airlines are authorized to fly to Cuba out of five U.S. cities:

  • Chicago
  • Fort Lauderdale
  • Miami
  • Minneapolis/St. Paul
  • Philadelphia

The airlines are allowed to fly into nine Cuban cities, which currently do not include the Cuban capital of Havana. They are:

  • Camagüey
  • Cayo Coco
  • Cayo Largo
  • Cienfuegos
  • Holguín
  • Manzanillo
  • Matanzas
  • Santa Clara
  • Santiago de Cuba

The DOT expects to announce its decision on Havana routes later this summer due to a large number of requests from airlines wishing to fly into Havana.

Most of the six airlines plan to start flying to Cuba in the fall or winter, and they will probably start selling tickets for those flights “well in advance of their planned startup dates,” according to the DOT.

If you were hoping to see Cuba as a tourist, however, don’t expect to book that ticket until laws change.

The six airlines are required to market and sell tickets for Cuba flights in accordance with “the laws, regulations, and requirements that remain in effect concerning travel to Cuba,” according to the DOT, and travel to Cuba for tourist activities remains prohibited by federal law.

The federal agency explains:

“While the new arrangement reflects a major step forward in President Obama’s policy of engagement with Cuba, the Department recognizes that significant limitations and requirements remain in place concerning air transportation between Cuba and the United States. … This new arrangement will facilitate visits for travelers that fall under one of 12 categories authorized by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.”

Authorized travel purposes currently include family visits, and educational and religious activities, for example.

Do you hope the U.S. government eventually approves tourist travel to Cuba? Share your thoughts below or on our Facebook page.

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