U.S. Department of Transportation grants new rights to Havana to 5 U.S. Airlines

An old American car, long a staple of Cuban roads, sits along Guanabo Beach, near Havana (Photo: Time.com)

The U.S. Transportation Department has tentatively awarded five U.S. airlines currently serving Cuba new flights to Havana, filling a gap that opened after several other carriers dropped out of the market.

The move will increase service to Cuba from several cities, including Boston, which will get its first nonstop flight to Havana with a new weekly service proposed by JetBlue.  Houston will get daily nonstops via United, which currently operates one flight a week from its Texas hub to the Cuban capital.

But DOT’s latest action is a reminder that the market for air service to the island nation, opened with high hopes in 2016, hasn’t exactly lived up to expectations.

When the U.S. and Cuba re-established diplomatic relations in 2015, the push to restore direct flights between the former foes was a high priority.  The DOT doled out rights to airlines to a number of cities in Cuba, with flights to Havana – by far the most promising of the island’s gateways – limited to 20 a day.  (Cuba’s national airline, Cubana, has not expressed interest in gaining reciprocal rights.) Prior to the move, U.S. visitors to Cuba traveled via charter flights.

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