Friday, June 10, 2016
Jensen Werley, Reporter
Jacksonville Business Journal
Two Florida cities are approved for flights to Cuba — but Jacksonville isn’t one of them.
That doesn't mean Jacksonville is off the list, though, said the Jacksonville Aviation Authority: The Department of Transportation has not yet announced which cities can fly to Havana, and that's the flight Jacksonville is vying for.
Silver Airways — which applied for approval for flights from Jacksonville to Havana — was granted approval for flights to nine Cuban cities out of Fort Lauderdale. Other airlines will be able to fly to Cuba from Miami, as well as Chicago, Minneapolis/ St. Paul and Philadelphia.
The nine Cuban cities are Camag?ey, Cayo Coco, Cayo Largo, Cienfuegos, Holgu?n, Manzanillo, Matanzas, Santa Clara, and Santiago de Cuba. Silver will fly to all of those from Ft. Lauderdale.
Silver was the only airline to apply for all nine cities and will be the only one flying to all nine, said Jason Bewley, Silver CFO and executive vice president for commercial operations.
That actually improves its chances for getting the flights its requesting for Havana, including from Fort Lauderdale and Jacksonville.
"The DOT spent a lot of time and energy getting these 10 cities ready to go," Bewley said, including Havana. "It would be embarassing for DOT if all 10 aren't served. We're the only one who said we'll do them all, but told DOT if we do all other nine, they have to give us Havana. If we're going to be the airline of choice for the Cuban market, we have to service the capital city. We also told them we would have to consider serving all nine if they don't give us Havana. Given their approval of all nine requests, we expect some frequency to Havana. Our first frequency would be West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. Our second would be Key West and Jacksonville. There's a fairly good chance if we're awarded some frequency Jacksonville will have service."
American Airlines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Sun Country Airlines and Silver are the approved carriers, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
“Last year, President Obama announced that it was time to ‘begin a new journey’ with the Cuban people,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a statement. “Today, we are delivering on his promise by re-launching scheduled air service to Cuba after more than half a century.”
JAA said it is hopeful Jacksonville could get a flight when the DOT announces flights to Havana later this summer.
Service will begin later this year. Under the arrangement, each country can operate up to 10 daily roundtrip flights for the nine international airports in Cuba excluding Havana, plus 20 daily roundtrips approved between the U.S. and Havana.
U.S. carriers applied for 60 flights per day to Havana, including the one from Jacksonville.