Cuba_RouteMapCo-Authored by Jennifer Diaz and Kristina Hernandez-Tilson, an attorney in Miami, Florida, practices in state and federal court, litigating matters of civil and administrative law. 

The novelist Graham Greene once said that Havana was a city to visit, not a city to live in – well, now visiting just became far simpler.

On Thursday, July 6, 2016, eight airlines were granted a tentative approval from the U.S. government for flights between certain U.S. cities and Cuba’s capital, Havana.

The U.S. cities are Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; Houston; Los Angeles; Newark, N.J.; New York; and four in Florida — Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Tampa. Of the 20 daily nonstop flights allowed to Havana, 14 will be from Florida.

The lucky airlines are Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit and United.

According to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, the decision will not be final until later this year, after interested parties have had a chance to submit any formal objections to these tentative plans, and until any answers to those objections have also been submitted and reviewed. The comment period closed on July 15, 2016, and the answer period closed on July 22, 2016. Because comments were submitted during these two periods, the Department must take them into consideration before issuing its final order.

This tentative decision comes shortly after the Transportation Department announced in June its approval for six U.S. airlines to begin service as early as this fall to 9 other Cuban cities, including Cienfuegos and Matanzas, where Varadero Beach is located. If approved, the plan to authorize flights to Havana will require the airlines to begin service within ninety (90) days of the issue date of the final order. One final, there will be 110 DAILY flights from the U.S. to Cuba, as we previously reported here.

This is another significant step in the normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba, but as we have discussed in various other articles, Congress has not lifted the trade embargo against Cuba, this means U.S. travelers are still restricted in the reasons they can visit the island, and what they can take, and bring back.

Yet, despite these continued restrictions, travel is becoming easier as the administration has eased many of the rules regulating travel to the island. For example, as we explained here, visitors may now design their own “people-to-people” cultural exchange tours, with little oversight, and without the aid of travel agencies and programs. This shift however does not mean you should not diligently document the purpose and execution of your travel to the island, as we described here, it is prudent to save proof, for five (5) years, of how your visit met the approved purpose for which you traveled.

As of now, the first commercial flight is scheduled to be flown by Jet Blue Airways on August 31, 2016, with service from Ft. Lauderdale to Santa Clara. Initially, this route will be serviced Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Starting on October 1, 2016, this service will be daily. These newly approved flights mark the first commercial flights between the U.S. and Cuba in over fifty years, however, some airlines have been operating charter flights between the two countries for several years now, for example, American Airlines has been flying to Cuba since 1991 – last year American flew 1,084 such charter flights, followed by JetBlue with 221.

Change is taking shape in the U.S.’s normalization of diplomatic ties with Cuba, and our office is well positioned to help you take advantage of these changes and ensure you stay compliant. Please contact us at info@diaztradelaw.com with any questions.