MIAMI — Cuba is on the horizon for Southwest Airlines. The Dallas-based carrier announced today that it intends to launch flights to Cuba on Sunday, November 13.
Southwest previously revealed that it intends to serve three cities in Cuba: Varadero (VRA), Santa Clara (SNU), and mostly notably, the capital city of Havana (HAV). The company today announced that Varadero will be the first of these to receive service. Flights to Varadero will launch on November 13, with flights to Havana scheduled to commence a month later on December 12.
Flight 3914, an 11:00 departure, from Fort Lauderdale (FLL) to Varadero (VRA) will mark the first Cuban flight for the low cost carrier. Southwest placed flights to both Varadero and Havana on sale today, featuring $59 introductory fares to celebrate the new service.
The company has not yet announced a launch date for flights to Santa Clara, its third destination. With Varadero set to take off first, Havana will officially represent the 100th destination served by Southwest. The announcement today fulfills earlier promises made by CEO Gary Kelly that the airline would launch service by year end.
Kelly championed the “significant and proud milestone” today in a statement: “Southwest customers can book their tickets now to travel to Cuba with our low fares and no hidden fees, bags fly free, and the best employees in the industry,” he said. “Cuba will be the ninth country on our route map and Havana will mark Southwest’s 100th city.”
The imminent service to Cuba reflects the airline’s recent push to expand internationally. Since its merger with AirTran Airways back in 2011, Southwest has kicked off a number of new international destinations. Cuba is just the latest example of the carrier’s expansion into more southern skies.
Southwest is not the first carrier to launch flights to Cuba. American Airlines and JetBlue Airways have already launched Cuban service. Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and Alaska Airlines among others are still on deck.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) granted applicable airlines the final authority to serve Cuba back in late August. Southwest won three of the twenty available slots to fly to Havana. The carrier will fly twice daily service from Fort Lauderdale and once daily from Tampa.
With November 13 officially on the calendar, Southwest’s service to Varadero, Cuba is now a month away. When Southwest touches down in Cuba for the first time, it will mark a historic occasion, and a milestone for the people of the United States and the people of Cuba.