Development

Heading to Cuba? Nonstop Charlotte-to-Havana flight coming later this year

rlahser@charlotteobserver.com

You could soon catch a nonstop flight from Charlotte to Havana.

Charlotte was one of ten cities tentatively selected by the U.S. Department of Transportation to receive a nonstop route to Havana, the latest step in the ongoing warming of relations between the U.S. and Cuba. American Airlines, which operates its second-busiest hub at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, had applied for one daily nonstop flight to the Cuban capital from Charlotte.

“We’re really excited to be one of the first cities to have international flights to Havana,” said Charlotte Aviation Director Brent Cagle.

The other cities selected by the DOT are Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, New York City, Orlando, and Tampa. The agency selected cities based on large Cuban-American populations and their status as major hub cities.

“Today we take another important step toward delivering on President Obama’s promise to reengage Cuba,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary and former Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, in a statement. “Restoring regular air service holds tremendous potential to reunite Cuban American families and foster education and opportunities for American businesses of all sizes.”

Airlines applied for far more routes than are available. Altogether, U.S. carriers applied for almost 60 slots, more than the 20 that are available. The DOT will accept objections to the tentative decision until July 22, and make a final decision in late summer.

American Airlines expects the flights to go on sale next month, after the DOT finalizes its decision. Charlotte to Havana flights would then begin in November, operated on an Airbus A319, a jet that seats 144 passengers total, with eight in business class.

“Charlotte is the second largest hub so our customers will now have access from all over the country, which is very exciting for the city and American Airlines,” said American spokeswoman Katie Cody. The carrier will also fly to Havana from its Miami hub four times a day, in addition to flights from other U.S. airports to five additional cities in Cuba.

“We think that this flight will allow Charlotte businesses access to potential customers in Cuba and we believe that it will allow Cubans access to Charlotte’s businesses and financial institutions,” said Natalie English, the Charlotte Chamber’s senior vice president of public policy. “This is further evidence that Charlotte continues to globalize, and we’re very excited about it.”

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