US Airlines to Start Scheduled Flights to Cuba
155 flights per week approved Friday by Department of Transportation
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 10, 2016 6:55 PM CDT
Galo Beltran, Cuba country manager for American Airlines, tests a handheld baggage scanner at Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport on Thursday.   (AP Photo/Scott Mayerowitz)

(Newser) – Six airlines won permission Friday to resume scheduled commercial air service from the US to Cuba for the first time in more than five decades, the AP reports. The airlines—American, Frontier, JetBlue, Silver Airways, Southwest, and Sun Country—were approved by the Department of Transportation for a total of 155 roundtrip flights per week. They'll fly from five US cities to nine cities in Cuba other than Havana. US law still prohibits tourist travel to Cuba, but a dozen other categories of travel are permitted, including family visits, official business, journalist visits, professional meetings, and educational and religious activities. The Obama administration has eased rules to the point where travelers are now free to design their own "people-to-people" cultural exchanges with little oversight.

Most of the airline service is expected to begin this fall and early winter. Approval is still required by the Cuban government, but the carriers say they plan to start selling tickets in the next few weeks while they wait for sign-offs from Cuba. The routes include service from Miami, Chicago, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, and Fort Lauderdale. The Cuban destinations are Camaguey, Cayo Coco, Cayo Largo, Cienfuegos, Holguin, Manzanillo, Matanzas, Santa Clara, and Santiago de Cuba. All flights currently operating between the two countries are charters, but the agreement the administration signed with Cuba in February allows for up to 110 additional daily flights—more than five times the current charter operations.