Delta still awaiting Cuba flight approvals

Delta Air Lines is still awaiting a decision on its application for flights to Havana, as the U.S. Department of Transportation approved Friday the first scheduled airline routes to Cuba.

The DOT approved routes to nine other cities in Cuba, but said it will not make a decision on the Havana routes until later this summer. Delta did not apply for routes to cities in Cuba other than Havana.

The just-approved service will be the first scheduled commercial airline flights from the United States to Cuba in more than 50 years, following a deal signed by the United States and Cuba in February.

Credit: Kelly Yamanouchi

Credit: Kelly Yamanouchi

With the restart of scheduled airline service between the two countries, U.S. visitors to Cuba must still qualify under one of 12 categories authorized by the U.S. Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control.

Atlanta-based Delta applied in March to operate flights to Havana from Atlanta, New York, Miami and Orlando. The airline put the New York route as its top priority in its application, with the Atlanta route as its second priority.

"Our teams are focused on Havana preparations and remain excited about Delta’s daily service returning to the market soon," said Delta spokesman Anthony Black in a written statement.

There is stiff competition for the routes: The U.S.-Cuba deal allows for up to 20 daily flights, and U.S. airlines combined have requested nearly 60 daily flights, "thus requiring DOT to select from among the proposals," the agency said.

The routes approved Friday are for service on American, Frontier, JetBlue, Silver, Southwest and Sun Country airlines.

They will add flights to Cuba from Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Chicago, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Philadelphia.

The cities in Cuba that will get scheduled flights from the U.S. in the route approvals Friday are Camaguey, Cayo Coco, Cayo Largo, Cienfuegos, Holguin, Manzanillo, Matanzas, Santa Clara and Santiago de Cuba.