In a message to employees, Southwest Airlines Co. CEO Gary Kelly today said the airline “in all likelihood” would apply to fly commercial flights in and out of Cuba, according to the Dallas Morning News.
“If we don’t get our foot in the door now, we might miss the opportunity to serve Cuba for a long time,” Kelly said, according to this report in the DMN. “We are very prepared to consider this opportunity and may very well be flying to Cuba in 2016.”
I reported last week that several U.S. airlines including Fort Worth-based American Airlines and Dallas-based Southwest Airlines are interested in the chance to fly to Cuba after officials from both countries agreed Feb. 16 to allow direct commercial flights to resume between the two nations. Only charter flights are now available between the countries.
Last week, a Southwest Airlines spokesman said the airline would “consider” flights to Cuba.
The Department of Transportation started the process for U.S. airlines to begin bidding on routes for as man as 110 U.S.-Cuba flights a day. The agreement allows 20 regular daily U.S. flights to Havana, in addition to the existing 10 to 15 charter flights a day. The rest of the destinations would be to nine other Cuban cities.
American Airlines said it plans to apply for scheduled service to Cuba, primarily with flights from its hub in Miami, but potentially also from Dallas Fort Worth International Airport and other hubs.
American has operated U.S.-Cuba charter flights since April 1991, and now offers 22 weekly flights out of Miami to Havana, Camaguey, Cienfuegos, Holguin and Santa Clara. American also flies from Tampa, Fla., to Havana and Holguin, and between Los Angeles and Havana.
Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines and Chicago-based United Airlines also intend to apply to fly to Cuba.
The relaunch of commercial flights comes after President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced late last year plans to begin normalizing ties after 50 years of Cold War prohibitions.
(Bill Hethcock - Dallas Business Journal)