Low-cost carrier JetBlue announced Thursday it will start flying to Cuba commercially on Aug. 31 — before competitors American Airlines and Silver Airways, which have also announced their departure dates.
Pending Cuban government approval, JetBlue would — so far — be the first U.S. commercial airline to fly to Cuba in more than half a century. The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded approval for Cuba travel to six U.S. airlines in June.
JetBlue will be wheels down in Santa Clara’s Abel Santamaria Airport, located three hours east of Havana, at about noon Aug. 31, beginning the first of a series of Monday, Wednesday and Friday flights from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport before daily service begins on Oct 1. JetBlue will also fly daily to Camagüey starting Nov. 3 and Holguín beginning Nov. 10 from Fort Lauderdale.
“It’s a new day for Cuba travelers and one we have thoughtfully prepared for,” said Marty St. George, executive vice president of commercial and planning at JetBlue. “We are proud to usher in a new era of Cuba travel with affordable fares and great service.”
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One-way flights will be $99, with round-trip from $210, including Cuba-required health insurance coverage and taxes, making it the lowest Cuba fare announced so far by a commercial airline.
$210 Cost of flight on the inaugural JetBlue trip to Santa Clara on Aug. 31
American Airlines is offering flights to Cuba from Miami International Airport to Cienfuegos, Holguín, Camagüey, Santa Clara and Varadero, with its inaugural flights to Cienfuegos and Holguín kicking off on Sept. 7. During a fare sale that expired earlier this month, tickets were as low as $286, including taxes.
Regional airline Silver Airways will fly to Cuba for the first time early in the morning on Sept. 1, with a flight to Santa Clara from Fort Lauderdale. During its fare sale, which expired June 30, tickets on the inaugural Santa Clara flight were $313.16.
The flights are generally cheaper than a charter flight to the island, which now costs about $400 to $460.
Americans can visit Cuba under 12 categories of travel, which exclude travel for strictly tourism. Travelers will still need to obtain an entrance visa, the most common form of which is referred to as a tourist card or visa. JetBlue said it will also sell visas upon check-in for about $50. Visas for business or media won’t be available at check-in.
JetBlue has also tentatively been awarded four daily flights between Havana and Fort Lauderdale, New York City and Orlando. Neither JetBlue nor American, which was awarded five daily flights to Havana, have announced what dates they will fly to the Cuban capital.