Airlines expect high demand for new routes between U.S. and Cuba

If you are aching for a vacation of sunbathing and banana daiquiris in Cuba, you may not have to wait too much longer.

Meetings are scheduled next week between U.S. and Cuban officials to reopen regular commercial flights between the two nations, according to the White House. For now, U.S. travelers can fly to Cuba only on charter flights for education, humanitarian efforts and professional research, among other permitted reasons.

Industry experts say U.S. airlines are eager to begin regular flights to the island nation, serving routes that are sure to be in high demand, particularly from Cuban Americans around Miami and Los Angeles.

Airlines “want the opportunity to serve Cuba,” said Seth Kaplan, managing partner for the trade publication Airline Weekly,

Cuba’s largest airports are equipped to welcome international flights from other countries and security measures for travelers on charter flights to the U.S. already meet federal standards, according to industry experts.

The biggest concerns may be how to regulate the launch of new U.S. flights so that they don’t overwhelm Cuban airports.

“Cuba may want a crawl-walk-run approach to resuming service,” said Henry H. Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst and founder of Atmosphere Research.

The airlines that are most likely to capitalize on regular service to Cuba may be American Airlines, JetBlue Airways and Spirit Airlines, which have large hub operations in Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

But Kaplan said all U.S. airlines will be angling to get into Cuba to meet demand from business travelers who want to establish commerce in Cuba, Cuban Americans who want to visit family and vacationers who long for a new beach to explore.

To read more about travel, tourism and the airline industry, follow me on Twitter at @hugomartin.

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