UPDATE 1-US approves offers from Delta and United to delay restart of Havana flights

(Adds more details, background)

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON, Oct 18 (Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) said on Tuesday it would allow Delta Air Lines and United Airlines to temporarily delay the resumption of flights to Cuba as they work to resolve logistical issues .

Last month, United said it had been working for months to relaunch service from Havana but was facing hurdles, while Delta also said it was facing problems restoring service.

The USDOT said it would require United to resume service by December 1 and Delta by March 26.

United previously operated seven weekly flights to Havana from its hubs in Houston and Newark. He said in September that he had to “undertake major works, including the renegotiation of several contracts with service providers that have expired, the construction of the necessary infrastructure in Terminal 3 of the Havana airport where United are transferred.”

Delta has the right to operate 21 weekly flights between the United States and Cuba, including 14 for Miami and 7 for Atlanta. Delta has suspended flights during the COVID-19 pandemic and initially plans to resume flights to Miami.

Delta said it was working to restart flights but “needs more time to ensure the reintroduction of safe, efficient and sustainable service to Havana.”

Delta expects it will take up to six months to re-establish the IT infrastructure needed to handle passenger needs in Havana and faces “ongoing challenges obtaining visas for staff to travel to Cuba” for pre-launch and post-launch staffing.

Last month, the Biden administration agreed to expand US flights to Havana, adding 13 weekly American Airlines departures from Miami and one weekly JetBlue Airways departure from Fort Lauderdale, in addition to the typical six daily flights from American Airlines and three JetBlue weekday flights to Havana from Florida airports.

In June, the USDOT lifted restrictions on flights to Cuba imposed by former President Donald Trump, including ending a ban on US airline flights to smaller Cuban airports.

In July, American Airlines received approval to resume service to some smaller Cuban airports. (Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Mark Porter and Chris Reese)

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