Airline competitors are queuing to join trailblazer JetBlue after it Wednesday operated the first regularly-scheduled commercial flight from the US to Cuba in more than 50 years.
JetBlue flight 387 made history when it crossed The Straits of Florida—that 90-mile wide swath of sea separating Cuba from the US — and touched down at Santa Clara Santamaria International Airport on the island nation’s once forbidden soil.
The landing marked the first time in more than half-a-century that a regularly-scheduled commercial airliner from the US has flown any route to Cuba, this time nonstop from Fort Lauderdale.
JetBlue 387 is the first in a flurry of US- Cuba flights that will be taking wing over the next few months.
The US Department of Transportation had okayed half-a-dozen US airlines to offer flights to nine Cuban cities: JetBlue, American Airlines, Southwest, Sun Country, Frontier and Silver Airways. On Wednesday, DoT named eight carriers to provide service to the prize of the new pact, Havana.
Set to join JetBlue on the Havana run are Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier, Southwest, Spirit and United.
The commercial aviation agreement between the US and Cuba allows each country to field as many as 20 daily roundtrips.
JetBlue, has been given 27 weekly flights from New York, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando while rival American has been granted four flights a day from Miami and one from Charlotte, North Carolina.
Delta gets 21 weekly flights to Havana, with daily flights from New York, Atlanta and Miami, while United will fly daily from Newark, New Jersey, and weekly from Houston.
Alaska will fly from Los Angeles while the other carriers into to fly from Florida, where there big numbers of Cuban expatriates live.
A US ban on tourism to Cuba remains in force and attempts to repeal it have been blocked in Congress by Republicans. However, there have been no prosecutions during the Obama administration and Americans can travel legally to Cuba if they meet certain criteria.
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who was on board JetBlue Flight 387, says the flights represent an effort to “re-engage with Cuba.” Part of that engagement for US airlines will be to make formal application with Cuban government for approval.