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Nation's biggest airlines apply to fly regular routes to Cuba

Nation's biggest airlines apply to fly regular routes to Cuba
In this Dec. 19, 2014 photo, Javier Yanez stands on his balcony decorated with U.S. and Cuban flags in Old Havana, Cuba. Most of the biggest carriers in the U.S. have filed applications to begin regular service to Havana and several smaller Cuban airports. (Ramon Espinosa / AP)

Most of the nation's biggest airlines have submitted applications with the federal government to begin regular commercial flights to Cuba, with American Airlines and Alaska Airlines proposing direct routes to the island nation from Los Angeles.

The applications were made public Wednesday, which is the deadline that the federal government set for airlines that want to operate commercial service to Cuba for the first time in more than 50 years.

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The Obama administration said commercial flights are expected to begin traveling in and out of Cuba as soon as this fall as part of the White House's effort to restore normal ties with the communist government.

U.S. law still bars tourists from visiting Cuba for leisure trips, but regular commercial flights will make it easier for U.S. visitors to travel to Cuba under 12 specific criteria, such as to study, visit relatives or perform religious activities.

Federal aviation officials said they plan to approve 20 daily scheduled round-trip flights to Havana, and 10 flights to nine smaller airports around the island nation. The U.S. Department of Transportation is scheduled to award the routes by summer.

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FOR THE RECORD

March 14, 1:07 p.m.: An earlier version of this story stated that the U.S. Department of Transportation would award commercial routes to Cuba by March 14. March 14 is the deadline for interested parties to file comments about the airline applications.

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American Airlines submitted an application to fly ten daily flights from Miami to Havana and one daily flight from Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth and Charlotte, N.C. The Fort Worth-based carrier also wants to fly regular routes from Miami to five smaller airports in Cuba.

Alaska Airlines has applied to fly two daily nonstop flights from Los Angeles to Havana.

Delta Air Lines has proposed direct flights to Havana from New York, Atlanta, Miami and Orlando.

Southwest Airlines has applied to fly to Havana from Ft. Lauderdale, Tampa Bay and Orlando.

United Airlines has proposed daily nonstop flights from Newark, Houston, Washington, D.C., and Chicago to Havana.

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

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