Alaska Airlines, which is aiming to become the dominant carrier on the West Coast with its planned acquisition of Virgin America, will begin offering the only daily nonstop flights from Los Angeles to Havana starting Jan. 5.
Alaska was among several major carriers that applied for limited slots to fly into Cuba, following an agreement by the U.S. and Cuba to relax travel restrictions that have been in place for more than 50 years.
Alaska said in its application that flights from Los Angeles could serve an estimated 190,000 passengers per year from a U.S. city with one of the largest Cuban American populations outside of Florida.
Alaska plans to fly a Boeing 737-900ER, a jet that can carry as many as 180 passengers, departing each day at 8:50 a.m. with a return flight at 5:55 p.m.
The U.S. government doesn't allow Americans to visit Cuba strictly for tourism. Instead, U.S. travelers must visit for one of 12 categories, including family visits or educational activities. But the U.S. government has streamlined the process to designate the purpose for each passenger's visit.