DALLAS – Southwest Airlines Co. inaugurated service between South Florida and Cuba with the scheduled 11:00 a.m. EST departure of Southwest Flight 3914 to Varadero (VRA) from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL). 143 Passengers and a crew of five Southwest Employees donned Cuban-style hats as the aircraft departed to an orchestra playing Caribbean music and a drumroll by renowned bandleader Tito Puente, Jr.
“Our Employees have worked hard to open this route and a new chapter for people who want to connect with Cuba in ways that matter most to them,” said Steve Goldberg, Southwest Airlines’ Vice President of Ground Operations who is also Southwest’s executive ambassador to Florida. Goldberg also announced Southwest intends to begin once daily service from Fort Lauderdale to Santa Clara, Cuba (SNU) on Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016, subject to requisite approvals of the Cuban government. “By the end of this year, we’ll offer six daily roundtrips between two Florida gateways and three Cuban cities as the work continues to open a new, five-gate international concourse here in Fort Lauderdale next summer.”
On Oct.13, Southwest announced its flight schedule of new nonstop service between Florida and both Varadero and Havana. Cuba is the ninth country served by Southwest, with Havana marking a historic 100th destination. Service between Havana (HAV) and both Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) and Tampa International Airport (TPA) begins Dec. 12, 2016, subject to requisite approvals of the Cuban government. Southwest street teams surprised residents with $100 Southwest Gift Cards across both greater Fort Lauderdale and Tampa Bay to spread awareness of the new routes. The carrier’s social media community followed the day’s events through hashtag #Southwest100.
The carrier continues to plan for available seat mile (ASM) growth in the 5-6 percent range in 2016.