MIAMI – The U.S. government on Thursday gave authorization to the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport to handle direct flights to Cuba.
The decision, coupled with the approval extended earlier this week to Tampa International Airport, bring to three the number of Florida airports authorized to offer service to the Communist-ruled island.
Until this week, airports in Miami, New York and Los Angeles were the only ones allowed to operate flights to Cuba.
Service to Cuba will not be regular commercial service, but rather one of charter flights through an air company based in Coral Gables, which would supply two flights per week beginning this spring or at the start of the summer, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International spokesman Greg Meyer said in an e-mail to Efe.
Airline Brokers Co., Inc., which has a license issued by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control to handle flights to the Caribbean island, said that it would be interested in immediately beginning the service if the South Florida airport were to obtain authorization.
OFAC enforces the 49-year-old U.S. economic embargo against Cuba.
With the authorization, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International reestablishes flights to Cuba that departed from that terminal from 1980 until June 1987, when the federal government designated Miami’s international airport as the departure point for the island in South Florida.
Flights to Cuba from Tampa could begin in August or September, airport officials said.
So far, the U.S. government has approved a total of nine international airports to provide authorized flights to and from Cuba as part of its efforts to improve relations with the Cuban people.
The airports are: Chicago O’Hare, Baltimore, Dallas/Fort Worth, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood, Atlanta and the Luis Muñoz Marin airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The only people who may travel from the United States to Cuba are Cuban-Americans with relatives on the island or U.S. citizens who fulfill certain requirements, including traveling there for academic or religious purposes. EFE