Delta, Spirit, Frontier Launch Havana, American Adds Charlotte

Spirit Airlines has begun flights to Cuba (Image: Spirit Airlines)

Spirit Airlines has begun flights to Cuba (Image: Spirit Airlines)

Today, Delta, Frontier, and Spirit commenced service from various U.S. cities to Havana, Cuba.  Yesterday, American Airlines commenced daily flights between Charlotte and Havana.  Additionally, more routes between the US and Cuba will launch in the coming months.  These new flights have been part of the recent thaw in relations between the United States and Cuba.

As of December 1st, 2016 the following U.S. carriers have at least one scheduled flight between the United States and Cuba; American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier, JetBlue, Silver Airways, Spirit, Southwest, and United.  Beginning in mid-December, Alaska Airlines will join the growing list of US carriers serving the island nation.

With the addition of five new routes between major US cities, the future of flights between the U.S. and Cuba continues to be positive.  Here’s how flights between the United States and Cuba have faired since the thaw in relations.

Who’s Flying to Cuba?

Below is the entire list of current and future flights between the United States and Cuba.  Routes launched in the last two days are denoted with an Astrix (*).

Cuba DestinationUS CityAirlineRemarks
HavanaFort LauderdaleSouthwestFuture† (Dec 12th)
HavanaFort LauderdaleJetBlue
HavanaFort LauderdaleSpirit*Recent Addition*
HavanaNew York-JFKJetBlue
HavanaTampaSouthwestFuture† (Dec 12th)
HavanaMiamiAmerican Airlines
HavanaCharlotteAmerican Airlines*Recent Addition*
HavanaLos AngelesAlaska AirlinesFuture† (Dec 15th)
HavanaMiamiDelta Air Lines*Recent Addition*
HavanaMiamiFrontier*Recent Addition*
HavanaNew York-JFKDelta Air Lines*Recent Addition*
HavanaAtlantaDelta Air Lines*Recent Addition*
HavanaNewarkUnited Airlines
HavanaHoustonUnited AirlinesFuture† (Dec 3rd)
VaraderoMiamiAmerican Airlines
VaraderoFort LauderdaleSouthwest
VaraderoFort LauderdaleSilver AirwaysFuture† (Dec 2nd)
Santa ClaraMiamiAmerican Airlines
SantiagoFort LauderdaleSilver Airways
Santa ClaraFort LauderdaleSouthwestFuture† (Dec 15th)
Santa ClaraFort LauderdaleSilver Airways
Santa ClaraFort LauderdaleJetBlue Airways
ManzanilloFort LauderdaleSilver AirwaysFuture† (Dec 16th)
HolguínMiamiAmerican Airlines
HolguínFort LauderdaleJetBlue Airways
HolguínFort LauderdaleSilver Airways
Cayo LargoFort LauderdaleSilver AirwaysFuture† (Mar 4, 2017)
Cayo CocoFort LauderdaleSilver Airways
CienfuegosFort LauderdaleSilver Airways
CienfuegosMiamiAmerican Airlines

In years past, many of the airlines served Cuba, however, operated only charter flights.  This was because of a longstanding US embargo against travel to the island nation.  Following the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries, the embargo has since been lifted and regularly scheduled passenger flights were made possible.

What Do these Flights Look Like?

#1: They’re Never Full

Unlike the majority of flights operated by United States carriers, flights to Cuba are rarely full.  All three major airlines serving Cuban cities (American, Delta, United) are reported to rarely fill up their flights.  For example, American and Delta are reported to load factors around 50-60% to Havana.  In some cases, nearly 100 seats go unfilled.

There are a variety of reasons for this.  The main reason is the difficulty in being allowed to travel to Cuba.  Though it has become easier to travel to Cuba, it’s still very difficult.  Additionally, the majority of Americans still view Cuba in a pretty negative manner.  There’s even speculation that the new US president-elect wants to re-freeze relations with the island nation.

There’s also a lack of American hotels and influence in major vacation cities as well as Havana.  No one wants to fly to Cuba at the moment, however, airlines are securing flights in anticipation of a Cuban travel boom in the coming months.

#2: Coach Fares are Very Cheap, Business Class is Outrageously Overpriced

Pretty much every day during the months of December and January, flights are priced as low as $59 one-way.  Frontier boasts the lowest coach fares, offering $59 fares between Miami and Havana.  American also offers fairly inexpensive flights at $111 in December and as low as $65 in January.  Delta and United both feature minimally more expensive fares.

You can score some pretty fantastic coach fares, business class is another story.  Flights from Miami to Cuba are roughly an hour long, however, you’ll have to fork up an average of $350 one-way.  American routinely sells its Miami-Havana flights for more than $400 one-way.  In comparison, Miami to Orlando (just under an hour) goes for as little as $160 one-way.  Of course, there are various factors that contribute to these fairly expensive business class fares.

#3 American Has Already Reduced Capacity

American Airlines, who out of the top three largest airlines in the United States has the largest footprint in Latin America, has already begun to reduce capacity on select Miami-Cuba routes.  American swapped out its Boeing 737-800 out for its Embraer 175s.  American’s 737-800s have a capacity of 160 passengers while the E175 can carry 76 passengers.

Airline experts have speculated that, regardless of initial returns on flights to Cuba, U.S. carriers will continue to operate flights from their hubs to Cuba to get their foot in the door.  Airlines, hotels, and both governments expect tourism to take off within the next few years.  The largest US carriers from American to Alaska are making an effort to secure gate space and frequencies from the US to Cuba.  However, that doesn’t mean airlines will continue to operate the same schedules and equipment with empty seats in the short-run.  This is evident in American’s decision to reduce capacity.


havana-1613263_1280It’s still very difficult to travel to Cuba as an American citizen.  In order to enter Cuba, Americans are required to be in possession of a Cuban tourist visa, have Cuban health coverage, and can only visit the country for certain purposes.  These purposes range from religious trips to journalistic trips.  I myself am working to secure a trip to the island nation within the next few weeks for journalist purposes.

With all the recent flights added between the United States and Cuba, do you plan on traveling to the island nation anytime soon?