As I wrote last week, the government issued new regulations for travel to Cuba. Not surprising, the airlines want in on this action.
American Airlines currently has charter flights out of Miami so they may consider additional flights out of Dallas-Ft Worth (DFW). United Airlines has already said they are interested in flights originating in Houston (IAH) and Newark (EWR) while Delta Air Lines also spoke about adding Cuban flights, most likely from Atlanta (ATL) and perhaps New York (JFK). JetBlue has added their name to the list and they would also be natural from New York. Other carriers considering flights to Cuba are Spirit and Southwest.
And I’m going to throw out another name for consideration. I wrote a while ago that the refurbished Eastern Airlines is back in the game. This Miami-based carrier is looking for routes so they may see benefits to a Cuban charter.
On the other side, it’s possible Cuba wants some reciprocity for their own airline, Cubana de Aviacion (CU). However, there is some question regarding the safety element here.
Note that we are not only talking about an increase in travelers for Cuba. As I said in an earlier post, the greatest gains initially will be commercial so the carriers are drooling over the possibility of transporting many tons of commercial goods, supplies, and equipment to the island nation.
Another wrinkle not being discussed much is Cuban airport infrastructure. As passenger traffic grows, there will be greater infrastructural needs such as international arrivals for customs, duty free shops and additional gates. Then there are matters of things like maintenance and fuel plus taxes and landing fees. And, of course, the airports in Cuba other than Havana’s HAV which will also experience growth in traffic.
Exciting as it may sound, none of this is a done deal at this time. All the airlines need to submit proposals to the Dept of Transportation (DOT) so it will take some time to sort out the route winners.
And I can tell you that virtually all the hotel chains are also interested. True, they are concerned because they know their properties can be seized and nationalized but they are also excited about the prospect of bringing their operations to what I believe will become one of the top island destinations in the years to come for business as well as leisure travelers.