American, JetBlue and Southwest bid for Delta’s former Cuba route

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Joe Raedle | Getty Images

JetBlue Flight 387 pushes back from the gate as it prepares for take off to become the first scheduled commercial flight to Cuba since 1961 on August 31, 2016 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. 

Three U.S. airlines – American, JetBlue, and Southwest – are bidding to take over a route to Cuba that’s being abandoned by Delta Air Lines Inc.

In May, Delta said it will terminate its Saturday service to Havana, Cuba, from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on Sept. 1. Delta had said back in December that it would dramatically reduce flights to Cuba from JFK International, just over a year after launching them. Delta cited U.S. government policies that have resulted in lower demand for travel to Cuba from areas outside of South Florida.

Now, American Airlines is proposing an additional weekly Saturday-only Miami-Havana flight using 160-seat Boeing 737-800 aircraft, beginning no later than Dec. 22. JetBlue Airways Corp. (Nasdaq: JBLU) says it wants the route for an additional weekly Saturday-only Fort Lauderdale-Havana flight using 162-seat Airbus A320 aircraft, beginning on Nov. 10. And Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE: LUV) proposes an additional weekly Saturday only Tampa-Havana flight using 175-seat Boeing 737-800 aircraft, beginning within 90 days after it gets clearance from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Delta continues to operate daily flights between Atlanta and Havana and twice daily flights between Miami and Havana. American, JetBlue, Southwest and United Airlines Inc. also operate other U.S.-to-Cuba flights.

The U.S. DOT says it will award the route to the airline that’s most likely to offer and maintain the best service for the traveling and shipping public. It will also consider the effects of the applicants’ service proposals on the overall competitive environment, including effects on market structure and competition in the U.S.- Cuba market. Read more about it here.

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