What to Know
- Eight U.S. airlines will begin a total of 20 round-trip daily flights as early as this fall between the U.S. and the Cuban capital
- 10 cities, including New York City and Newark, will host flights.
- Airlines still need to record — and keep for five years — the official reason why someone travels to Cuba
Scheduled commercial airline service to Havana from 10 American cities -- including Newark and New York City -- won tentative government approval Thursday, advancing President Barack Obama's effort to normalize relations with Cuba.
Eight U.S. airlines will begin a total of 20 round-trip daily flights as early as this fall between the U.S. and the Cuban capital, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said. It has been more than 50 years since the last scheduled air service from the U.S. to the communist island nation.
In addition to Newark and New York City, airports in Atlanta; Charlotte, North Carolina; Houston; and Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Tampa, Florida, will all be all be able to host flights to Cuba.
Airlines included in the agreement include Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, and United.
Foxx said the decision won't be final until later this summer in order to provide a 30-day public comment period. Last month, the Transportation Department announced the approval of six U.S. airlines to begin service as early as this fall to other Cuban cities.
Most Americans still cannot legally visit Cuba. But the Obama administration has eased rules to the point where travelers are now free to design their own "people-to-people" cultural exchange tours with little oversight.
Airlines still need to record — and keep for five years — the official reason why someone travels to Cuba, so reservation systems have been revamped to allow passengers to select one of the 12 permitted categories. They include family visits, official business, educational or religious activities.
In New Jersey, state police are asking tourist set to visit Cuba to be alert of fugitives wanted by the FBI. Among those wante is Joanne Chesimard, the aunt of rapper Tupac Shakur. She was convicted in the shooting death of a New Jersey state trooper in 1973 but escaped to Cuba, where she was granted asylum by Fidel Castro.
U.S. citizens' interest in visiting Cuba has swelled since relations between the two nations started to thaw in December 2014. Nearly 160,000 U.S. leisure travelers flew to Cuba last year, along with hundreds of thousands of Cuban-Americans visiting family.