UPDATE 2-U.S. approves flights to Cuba by six American carriers
(Adds airline and government comments, detail, background)
WASHINGTON, June 10 (Reuters) - The United States has approved flights on six U.S. airlines to Cuban cities other than Havana, linking the former Cold War foes closer together, the U.S. Transportation Department said in a statement on Friday.
The green light lets airlines schedule flights to the communist-ruled island for the first time in decades. Until now, air travel to Cuba has been limited to charter services.
Flights will begin as early as the fall, the department said.
American will have nonstop service from Miami, the largest Cuban community in the United States; Southwest, JetBlue and Silver Airways will fly from nearby Fort Lauderdale; Frontier will add flights from Chicago and Philadelphia; and Sun Country will serve Minneapolis.
"For avid travelers - that means 155 weekly trips," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in an online bulletin. "It is an exciting time in American history as we continue to make inroads toward safe scheduled passenger and cargo flights to Cuba."
The department said it approved every route proposal outside Havana except for those of charter operator Eastern Airlines.
A ban on tourism to Cuba remains part of U.S. law. However, President Barack Obama has authorized exceptions since the countries began restoring relations in December 2014. U.S. travelers must meet one of 12 criteria such as being Cuban-American or taking part in educational tours or journalistic activity.
Airlines expect a gradual, though potentially bigger payout from the flights than is typical for Caribbean destinations. Continuación...