Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Potential flights from Ft. Lauderdale on Jet Blue and Spirit

Cuba travel clears one hurdle in Broward

The Broward County Commission took the first steps to becoming a gateway to Cuba.

Residents and travelers with relatives in Cuba might be able to hop a plane or boat out of Broward bound for Cuba.

Broward County commissioners on Tuesday approved seeking permission from the federal government to allow flights to and from Cuba at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
County officials will also ask the U.S. Department of Treasury to designate Port Everglades as another point of entry.

Commissioners approved the item without discussion.

But the chances of the county getting approval -- and when the trips would start -- are unknown.
``We want to put ourselves to be in a position to be considered,'' Broward airport director Kent George said.

Earlier this year, the U.S. government eased travel restrictions to Cuba to allow those who have relatives there to visit more often. More than 100,000 people of Cuban descent live in Broward and Palm Beach counties.

But the federal government still has to create a national policy that will determine whether several airports and ports are granted access at once or gradually, George said.

Spirit Airlines and JetBlue have expressed an interest in starting such flights out of the Fort Lauderdale airport. George estimates the airlines would start offering service a couple of times a week.

Currently three airports have permission to fly to Cuba: Miami, New York-Kennedy and Los Angeles.
Several airports nationwide, including Key West and Tampa, have expressed interest in offering service to Cuba.

If Fort Lauderdale wants to be successful, ``I think they better get to Washington,'' said Vivian Mannerud, owner of Airline Brokers Company, which charters flights from Miami to Cuba. ``There are other airports in the U.S. that have been lobbying very heavily to get approved and they have been at it for seven or eight months.''

George said he had no immediate plans to send lobbyists to Washington, D.C. though he said that is a possibility.

Adding flights to Cuba would not increase costs for the airport.

Said George: ``We have the gates, customs and security.''

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