Just in time for your holiday travels, American Airlines will begin operating new charter flights to Havana.
Come December 12, American Airlines will operate flights between Los Angels International Airport and José Martí International Airport in Havana, making it the only U.S. carrier to provide nonstop service between the West Coast and Cuba.
The major domestic carrier already has flights sold through Cuba Travel Services, including routes from Miami and Tampa to Cienfuegos, Havana, and Santa Clara (among other major Cuban cities). When flights to Los Angeles begin, the airline will offer 22 routes from the U.S. to our Caribbean neighbor.
“American is the leading carrier to the Caribbean,” said spokesperson Matt Miller. “Cuba presents a great opportunity because it’s an untapped market.”
With the reestablishment of the U.S. embassy in Havana, Americans are more eager than ever to see the island, just 90 miles off domestic shores. American Airlines has seen a 9 percent increase in flights over the last year.
Miller hopes that as travel restrictions between the two countries continue to ease, the bilateral air transport agreement that stands between the two countries, unchanged since 1957, will allow airlines—including American Airlines—to allow for direct booking.
He calls this “the biggest hurdle.”
“When the two countries have come to an agreement on what service will look like in both directions…very few other things need to take place. If both governments want [this] to happen, it could, fairly quickly.”
It’s not unreasonable to imagine that by the beginning of 2016, we could all be booking direct flights to Cuba, without involving one of the government-approved charter services.
Melanie Lieberman is the Assistant Digital Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @melanietaryn.