UPDATE 2-U.S. airlines vie for limited routes to Cuba
(Adds airline comments on competition)
By Jeffrey Dastin
March 2 (Reuters) - Top U.S. airlines on Wednesday said they were seeking regulatory approval to start flying specific routes to Cuba, ramping up competition over a limited number of opportunities to serve one of the industry's last frontiers.
Dramatizing their eagerness for the coveted flights, American Airlines Group Inc, JetBlue Airways Corp and others argued why they were best suited for the routes in memos that at times were critical of one another.
U.S. and Cuban officials signed an arrangement two weeks ago restoring commercial air service between the countries for the first time in decades. U.S. carriers had until March 2 to submit route applications to the U.S. Transportation Department.
The arrangement, in the works after the Cold War foes said they would normalize ties in Dec. 2014, allows 20 round-trip flights per day from the United States to Havana and 10 round-trip flights per day to nine other airports in Cuba.
But proposals by airlines appear to have exceeded the cap to Havana by at least 19 flights per day, with requests even higher for certain days of the week.
American Airlines Group Inc, which has the widest Latin America network of its peers, asked for 10 daily flights to Havana from its Miami hub, one per day from its hubs in Charlotte and Dallas/Fort Worth and one per week from Los Angeles and Chicago.
American said in its publicly filed application that there were 10 times the number of Cuban-Americans living in Miami-Dade county than in nearby Broward county, where its main rival to the Caribbean, JetBlue, has its large Fort Lauderdale operation. Continuación...