Tag: #Cuba

Airlines line up for rights to fly to Cuba

U.S. carriers appear set for a dogfight over newly opened flight rights to Havana, but their interest in other Cuban destinations appears to be lukewarm.

Airlines had until the close of business on Wednesday to apply to the U.S. Department of Transportation for the U.S.-Cuba flight rights. That comes after a February agreementpaved the way for the first regularly scheduled, non-charter passenger airline flights between the nations in five decades. The pact gives U.S. airlines access to 110 daily flights to Cuba.

But only 20 of those will be allowed to go to Havana, Cuba’s capital and most high-profile destination. And those routes are in high demand.

LISTHere are the Cuba routes U.S. airlines want

American Airlines alone has requested 14 daily flights to Havana plus two additional weekend-only flights. That’s more than any other carrier. Close behind was JetBlue, which proposed 12. Southwest had proposed nine. Delta and small regional carrier Silver Airways each requested the equivalent of five daily round-trip flights to Havana.

Alaska Airlines, which was one of the first to go public with its Cuba plans, proposed two daily round-trip flights between Havana and Los Angeles. Spirit hadn’t yet revealed its plans, though it was expected to request flights to Havana, too.

One surprisingly robust bid for Havana flights came from Denver-based low-cost carrier Frontier, which is seeking rights to fly three daily round-trip flights to Havana from Miami and one from Denver.

All that indicated a dogfight for Havana flight routes. Combined, U.S. carriers had collectively applied for the equivalent of at least 51 daily flights to Havana. Only 20 are on the table.

Beyond the 20 allocated for Havana, there will be 10 daily flights allowed on routes to each of Cuba’s nine other international airports.

Nearly all of the big carriers applying for Havana flights also sought rights on routes to some of those cities, as well. United and Alaska were among the exceptions, seeking only rights to fly to Havana.

United proposed most of its Havana service would come from its hub at Newark Liberty, where it hopes to operate one daily round-trip flight to Havana with a second daily flight on Saturdays. United would fly only one flight a week to Havana from three other cities, proposing one round trip each Saturday from Chicago O’Hare, Houston Bush Intercontinental and Washington Dulles.

“This is a historic moment for our company, our employees and, most importantly, our customers,” United CEO Oscar Munoz said in a statement. “We want to be the first choice for passengers traveling between the U.S. and Cuba. We’re able to offer customers the best access, convenience and connections to and from Havana through our industry-leading global route network, and we’re excited to compete for this important service.”

Before U.S. airlines can begin their flights, their route authority applications must win approval by the DOT. The airlines then must reach service agreements with Cuban aviation authorities. It’s thought that flights under the agreement could begin by this fall.

Eastern Air Lines is back. Hoping they do better than Pan Am part II

The 'new' Eastern Air Lines' first plane, a Boeing

A current reincarnation of the iconic U.S. airline brand flew its first flight with paying passengers Thursday afternoon, operating a charter flight from Miami to Havana, Cuba, The Miami Herald reports.

That marked the first revenue flight for the “new” Eastern, which is flying Boeing 737-800 aircraft. The company purchased the rights to the old Eastern name and logo earlier this decade. It plans a base in Miami, just as the old Eastern had done.

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But customers hoping to buy tickets for traditional commercial airline service are out of luck – at least for now. Eastern is getting its start by operating Cuba charters in partnership with the HavanaAir charter company.

U.S. airlines can fly on routes between the U.S. and Cuba, but they must do so in conjunction with tour companies that are authorized by the U.S. to sell travel on U.S.-Cuba itineraries. Similarly, since travel must be sold by authorized tour companies, flights by U.S. airlines operate as charter flights sold via the tour-company.

Eastern plans to move into regularly scheduled commercial service that most U.S. passengers are familiar with. Ed Wegel, the CEO heading Eastern’s start-up effort,told the Herald earlier this year he hoped to position Eastern “somewhere in between” the ultra-low-cost carrier niche — which includes airlines like Spirit and Frontier — and the traditional legacy carriers, such as American, United and Delta.

TODAY IN THE SKY: Eastern Air Lines hopes to launch flights in mid-March(January 2015)
TODAY IN THE SKY: Eastern Airlines returns to Miami with first Boeing 737(December 2014)

For now, though, Eastern will focus on charter operations. Wegel tells the Herald that non-charter flights are likely at least a year off.

Starting slowly could help Eastern succeed where many others have failed, saysChris Sloan, editor in chief and publisher of Airways News.

“They’re going to get their operations straight, generate revenue on charters before venturing to scheduled service,” Sloan says to the Herald. “That, to me, is encouraging that they’re not leaping with both feet in. Virtually everyone else who has resurrected a name has failed at it. They’ve all done it completely differently than Eastern is.”