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JetBlue, Southwest Approved To Offer Nonstop Flights To Cuba From Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport

The first regularly scheduled U.S. flights to Cuba in more than 50 years will begin as soon as this fall, and plenty of them will be leaving out of Fort Lauderdale.

American Airlines, Frontier, JetBlue, Silver Airways and Southwest have all been approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to operate flights to Cuba out of South Florida. A sixth airline, Sun Country Airlines, will fly once a week out of its home base of Minneapolis.

JetBlue, Southwest and Silver Airways will all offer direct flights out of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL).

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“[The] news is historic on many fronts, especially for the families who, for the first time in generations, will have affordable award-winning air travel to visit their loved ones,” JetBlue President and CEO Robin Hayes said in a release.

While restoration of commercial flights is a big step in Cuban-American relations, general U.S. tourism to Cuba is still not allowed. Travelers must fall within one of the 12 designated categories for travel, including family visits, people-to-people exchanges and religious activities.

Travelers interested in flying to Cuba should also contact the Cuban Embassy in Washington to determine the type of visa Cuba requires.

Moreover, airlines have yet to be approved to offer flights directly to Cuba's capital city of Havana. Experts suggest this is because Havana's Jose Martí Airport isn't equipped to handle an increased flow of passengers without an upgrade, In Cuba Today reported.

However, DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx noted routes to Havana should be announced later this summer

JetBlue plans to operate daily service (once a day per route) from FLL to Santa Clara, which is home to one of Cuba's top universities, and Camagüey and Holguín, which offer Colonial architecture and plazas. Tickets will go on sale this summer.

Fort Lauderdale-based Silver Airways had nine routes approved, the most of any airline, according to Travel Market Report. Meanwhile, Southwest will offer its low-fare, bags-fly-free service to Matanzas and Santa Clara.

American Airlines, which will be running flights out of Miami International Airport, has announced it will officially launch service on Sept. 7. These routes will travel to Cienfuegos and Hoguín. Soon after, AA will begin service to Camagüey and Santa Clara (Sept. 9) and Varadero (Sept. 11).

(Image via Unsplash.com)