Texas-Based Southwest, American Airlines Clear to Fly to Cuba

A direct flight to Havana, Cuba, is listed on a screen in JetBlue Airways Corp.'s Terminal 5 at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) airport in New York, U.S., on Friday, Aug. 7, 2015. The largest airline at JFK by passengers, JetBlue will be building a 505-room, $250 million TWA …
File Photo: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Two Dallas-Fort Worth-based commercial airlines are now clear for take-off to airports in Cuba according to the Obama Administration’s “efforts to normalize relations”. Within the year, American travelers can expect up to 90 daily round-trip flights between the United States and nine destinations on the Communist island nation.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx (DOT) delivered the news of renewed commercial travel between the nations as a promise kept when President Barack Obama argued it was time to “begin a new journey” with the Cuban people. By fall 2016, American Airlines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Silver Airways, Southwest Airlines, and Sun Country Airlines will commence service to Cuba from five U.S. cities according to a press release distributed Friday. Current DOT regulations require approval from the Obama Administration for any airline seeking to develop new routes. A decision on which carriers will be clear to fly to Havana and how often has yet to be given from Washington.

Dallas-based Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV) lauded the decision in a statement to the Dallas Morning News, noting that it will soon commence routes from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to Varadero and Santa Clara. The company is still waiting for regulatory approval from DOT to offer daily service between Ft. Lauderdale, Tampa and Orlando to Havana. The airline declined further comment on the matter, however.

Fort Worth-based American Airlines (NASDAQ: AAL), in contrast, widely promoted the news in a public news release circulated shortly after the decision. Steve Johnson, American’s executive vice president of Corporate Affairs praised the DOT decision stating, “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.”

American will soon begin twice-daily roundtrip routes between Miami, Holguin, Santa Clara and Varadero. Once daily service will also be available between Miami, Camaguey and Cienfuegos. A combination of Boeing 737s and Airbus A319s will be used to shuttle passengers. The company is still awaiting approval to expand services to Havana from Charlotte, DFW, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Between all of the carriers currently approved, Americans will have a total of 90 daily roundtrips to choose from, according to the DOT release.

American Airlines argues that it is perfectly positioned with “unmatched experience” in flying to the island nation thanks to its 25 years of charter flights. A fact sheet released in conjunction with the latest DOT ruling notes that “unlimited” roundtrip charter services will continue to be available between the two countries.

It remains to be seen how the continued bilateral normalization will affect the rush of Cubans migrating to the United States out of fear that preferential naturalization programs may soon cease. Breitbart Texas recently reported how Mexican and Panamanian airlines began offering deep discounts and free airfare to children hoping to cross from Ciudad Juarez to El Paso. A separate Breitbart Texas report found that thousands of migrants were expected to access welfare services under the Refugee Resettlement Program administered by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Medicaid benefits are made immediately available for new arrivals.

Logan Churchwell is a founding member of the Breitbart Texas team. You can follow him on Twitter @LCChurchwell.