Alaska Airlines secures U.S. government approval for new Cuba flights

Screen shot 2016-09-02 at 7.15.39 AMAlaska Airlines said today it has been awarded rights to operate a new commercial service between Seattle – Los Angeles and Havana, Cuba.

Alaska Air Group (NYSE: ALK) said the United States Department of Transportation officially approved the airline’s application to launch service to the Cuban capital. The airline had been issued a tentative recommendation for approval in July.

But spokeswoman Bobbie Egan cautioned the airline’s plan must still be approved by the Cuban government before Alaska Airlines can start selling any tickets.

If approved by Cuba, the new Alaska Airlines flights will originate in Seattle and include a same-plane Los Angeles stop, before proceeding on to Havana.

“We applaud Secretary Anthony Foxx and the team at DOT for their thoughtful and impartial approach toward opening U.S. commercial service to Cuba,” said John Kirby, Alaska’s vice president of capacity planning.

Alaska said it will set a start date for the service only if and when it secures Cuban government approval.

Meanwhile, Delta Airlines also said it had received permission to resume its own regular service to Havana, beginning Dec. 1, from its Atlanta hub, but also from New York-JFK and Miami.

Delta had operated a charter service to Cuba that was suspended in 2012, though it made a couple of special charter flights to Havana in 2015

The Atlanta-based airline said tickets for its Cuba flights will go on sale Sept. 10, 2016, but added an important caveat: all its routes and flights are also subject to Cuban government regulatory approval.

Both airlines both emphasized that despite the thaw in political and economic relations between the United States and Cuba, traveling to Cuba involves careful advance planning.

That’s because the U.S. government still doesn’t allow Americans to visit Cuba strictly for tourism.

U.S. citizens are permitted to travel to Cuba only if they fall under 12 approved categories, such as family visits, education, journalism and humanitarian projects.

Learn more about the travel requirements and travel to Cuba here.

Andrew McIntosh, Puget Sound Business Journal

August 31, 2016


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