MIAMI — Low-cost carrier JetBlue announced Thursday it will start operating scheduled flights to Cuba on August 31, thus becoming the first U.S. commercial airline to fly regularly to the island in over 50 years.
Subject to approval from the Cuban government, JetBlue would start three weekly scheduled flights from its focus city at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport to Santa Clara’s Abel Santamaria Airport, located three hours east of Havana, the capital city of Cuba.
Last June, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) cleared six American carriers, including JetBlue, to start flying regularly to Cuba, further complemented with a tentative decision announced earlier this month for flights to Havana.
JetBlue will also fly daily to Camaguey starting November 3 and Holguin beginning November 10, also from Fort Lauderdale. So far, no flights to Havana have been announced.
“It’s a new day for Cuba travelers and one we have thoughtfully prepared for,” said Marty St. George, executive vice president commercial and planning, JetBlue. “We are proud to usher in a new era of Cuba travel with affordable fares and great service.”
JetBlue has beaten competitors American Airlines and Silver Airways into the Cuban market. Both carriers have also announced their departure dates. American Airlines planned its inaugural flights to Cienfuegos and Holguin on Sept. 7, while Silver Airways is set to start its first scheduled service to Cuba on Sept. 1, with a flight to Santa Clara from Fort Lauderdale.
Travelers to Cuba may qualify under one of a dozen categories authorized by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which excludes tourism travel, and will require an entrance visa. JetBlue said that will make those visas available for purchase upon check-in or at the gate for connecting customers on the day of travel.
The carrier also advised to contact the Cuban Embassy in Washington to determine the appropriate type of visa required by Cuba for their purpose of travel.