Airline Brokers, a Miami company that charters flights to Cuba, said Thursday it has asked for U.S. Department of Transportation approval to put on the first flights from South Florida to the central city of Santa Clara.
Company president Vivian Mannerud said she expects the route will be popular because Cubans from the region between Santa Clara and Havana, 82 miles to the west, make up the bulk of the migrants to South Florida over the past 15 years.
The company already charters seven flights a week to Cuba, leaving from both Miami and Ft. Lauderdale international airports and landing in Havana and Cienfuegos, on the island’s south-central coast, Mannerud added.
The U.S. Transportation Security Administration, which must approve U.S. air routes, recently approved flights to Santa Clara, a city of 250,000, and Manzanillo, with about 130,000 people on Cuba’s southeastern coast.
Airline Brokers does not plan to apply for a Department of Transportation permit to fly to Manzanillo because of the demographics, Mannerud said, and not because of the recent outbreak of cholera in that region.
Cuban government officials have reported three cholera deaths and 186 confirmed cases since late June, but dissidents have said the true numbers are far higher.
All U.S. flights to Cuba are chartered, by eight U.S. companies, because the U.S. embargo does not allow regular commercial flights. The flights require Department of Transportation approvals.