Monday, April 27, 2009

New Cuba flights

AirTran going to operate scheduled flights into Cuba if restrictions on tourism to the country are eased, Chief Executive Officer Bob Fornaro said last week.

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines said it's premature for it to comment or speculate if it would serve Cuba, "based on the fact that we don't know how any changes would be structured in the future," spokesman Kent Landers said.

"It's a very pretty country and the curiosity level as well as the ethnic flying back and forth is going to be substantial," Fornaro said. "I think it's going to be a very, very strong leisure destination."

AirTran is based in Orlando, Fla., although its largest hub is at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

"We'd like to be one of the first ones for scheduled flights, and certainly that would include Atlanta and probably other points in Florida as well," Fornaro said. "I think a lot of airlines are going to have a lot of interest."

He estimated five or more airlines could pursue flights to Havana but speculated that the number of carriers granted rights might be limited.

Interest in the possibility of scheduled commercial airline flights to Cuba heightened after President Barack Obama earlier this month lifted restrictions on Cuban-Americans' visits to Cuba.

AirTran has operated charter flights from Miami to Havana with tour operators in past years.

Fornaro said he doesn't have solid information on Cuba's airport facilities and acknowledged potential complications for the tourism market there.