With trains set to start rolling this summer between West Palm Beach and Miami with a stop in Fort Lauderdale, journalists were given tours of two train cars, a locomotive and the Brightline maintenance facility just north of downtown West Palm.
Ticket prices are yet to be announced, but those who hope to hop aboard can expect to see various ticket packages to cater to customers’ needs, Brightline President Michael Reininger said. Travelers will be able to choose between two levels of car: the Smart Coach, which has four seats across per row with an aisle down the middle; and the Select Coach, which features wider seats, free snacks, alcoholic beverages, and two seats on one side of the aisle and one seat on the other, allowing for solo seating.
Here are a few features inside the trains for travelers to watch for:
WiFi: Each Brightline train car is equipped with free on-board WiFi. Brightline officials said with multiple antennas per train, the WiFi signal will be powerful enough to allow guests to stream TV shows and movies, or play online games.
Power: Each seat has access to multiple power outlets and USB ports. One seating configuration, which has four seats facing each other with a table in the middle, has outlets between each of the seats, with another set of outlets that pops up out of the table.
Touchless bathrooms: The bathrooms on the Brightline train are mostly touchless — you still have to grab the toilet paper yourself. Toilets flush with the wave of your hand, and the sink and soap also are motion-activated. For those who forget to flush, the toilet will do it for you when you open the door to exit.
Mind the gap: Each train car has “gap fillers” that bridge the gap between the car and the station platform. There’s about a three-inch difference in height between the two, Brightline said, so the gap filler will allow travelers in wheelchairs or with strollers or walkers to safely cross.
Pet-friendly trains: Brightline trains will have room for both large and small pets. Smaller critters will have to travel in carriers, which can be stowed under a seat or in the overhead luggage area. Pet owners also can make reservations for larger pets — but they’ll get their own larger carrier at the end of the train, near the luggage racks.
The landmark flights follow a recent pledge by President-elect Donald Trump via Twitter to “terminate” the deal between the U.S. and Cuba if “Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole.”
If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate deal.
Three airlines will launch direct flights to Havana from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in coming days. JetBlue Airways’ flight took off at 11 a.m. today; Spirit Airlines’ flight leaves at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow; and Southwest Airlines’ flight departs at 11:55 a.m. Monday.
Air travel between the U.S. and Cuba had been limited to charter flights until earlier this year when, as part of President Barack Obama’s plan to normalize relations between the two countries, the U.S. Department of Transportation approved several airlines to provide regular commercial air service.
In a blog post, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation Victor Mendez said that by the end of the year, airlines estimate they will have conducted more than 500 round trip flights — equal to more than 90,000 passenger seats — between Havana and Fort Lauderdale, Atlanta, Charlotte, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, New York City, Orlando and Tampa.
“The numbers themselves are impressive,” Mendez wrote, “and they underscore the significant benefits that President Obama’s policy of re-engagement is having for both the American and the Cuban people.”
Earlier this month, a federal official cautioned that it’s too soon to tell what effect a Trump presidency could have on how U.S. airlines operate to and from Cuba. Jenny Rosenberg, acting assistant secretary for aviation and international affairs at the U.S. Department of Transportation, said in a conference call with reporters that it’s too soon to “speculate on the current agreement that we have.”
Mark Gale, CEO and president of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, told The Palm Beach Post in August that he’s proud of his team and JetBlue, whose flights account for about a fifth of all traffic at the airport.
“To have that very, very first flight come out of our airport is a great honor,” he said.
After reading a post from a friend on Facebook this past weekend where she vehemently defended her right to clap, I decided to ask my Facebook friends: Do you clap when your flight lands? When and why? The answers were … kind of all over the place.
Amanda Parmelee, a former Delray Beach resident who now works as an outreach coordinator for a North Carolina nonprofit, said she tends to clap at the end of rough flights. In one instance, she said, “The applause was actually shared by everyone. There was a bit of skidding, and I think everyone was just happy to have touched down without incident.”
A friend from college, Cheyanne Lent, said she claps at the end of every flight.
Vincent Tran, a former coworker, quipped that he doesn’t clap when his flight lands — but he does clap when his Uber driver gets him safely to his destination.
USA Today’s popular Ask the Captain column took on the question in 2013. John Cox, who writes the column and flew for U.S. Airways for 25 years, said often the pilots don’t hear the applause. It’s OK to clap, he said, but he doesn’t: “I don’t clap … because I recognize the professionalism of the pilots and know that they are doing exactly what they’re supposed to do.”
So it based on experience? Some articles indicate it could be first-time travelers who are more inclined to applaud. A Travel and Leisure article theorized that it could be that, or it could be the destination: People might just be really excited to get where they’re going.
Where do you stand? Vote in our poll below, then comment to explain your position.
A mobile app designed to speed travelers’ entry into the U.S. can now be used at Port Everglades — making the Fort Lauderdale seaport the first in the nation to offer the service.
The app, Mobile Passport Control, is available for iPhone and Android devices, and is in use at airports throughout the U.S., including Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Miami International Airport. Cruise passengers at Port Everglades can use it beginning today, the port said in a news release.
• Travelers download the app and complete a profile for themselves. They also can add profiles for family members. That information is encrypted and shared only with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.
• Before leaving the cruise ship, the user enters the information they would have written on a customs form into the app by answering a few questions.
• The app generates a barcode, which the user can take to a specific Mobile Passport Control office after leaving the ship. A customs officer will scan the barcode, and the traveler will be able to head on their way.
In addition to the app, Port Everglades also recently finished testing Automated Passport Control kiosks in its cruise terminals. Similar to the way the app works, travelers can use the kiosks to fill out their biographical information and customs declarations before heading to a customs line.
“Through our partnership with Port Everglades, we have worked together to bring new technology and procedures to the cruise ship processing environment,” Jorge Roig, Customs port director at Port Everglades, said in a news release. “The addition of the Mobile Passport App and Automated Passport Control Kiosk to the cruise ship environment will bring added benefits to all those that utilize the program and will assist CBP in the completion of its mission of keeping maritime travel safe.”
A travel waiver typically allows passengers to change their flights with little to no penalty. The waiver offered varies depending on the airline. For information regarding a specific flight, contact your airline.
Here’s the list of travel waivers in effect. This list will be updated as more waivers are announced.
Waiver benefits: No change fee for eligible flights.
Where the waiver is in effect: Daytona Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Key West, Melbourne, Miami, Orlando and West Palm Beach.
You are eligible for the waiver if you are traveling on an American Airlines flight purchased before Oct. 4; you’re scheduled to travel Oct. 5-7; you can travel Oct. 5-12; and you don’t change your origin or destination.
Where the waiver is in effect: Augusta and Savannah, Ga.; Charlotte, Fayetteville, Greensboro, Greenville, New Bern, Raleigh/Durham, Richlands and Wilmington, N.C.; Columbia, Charleston, Florence, Hilton Head Island and Myrtle Beach, S.C.
You are eligible for the waiver if you are traveling on an American Airlines flight purchased before Oct. 4; you’re scheduled to travel Oct. 5-9; you can travel Oct. 5-14; and you don’t change your origin or destination.
Where the waiver is in effect: Cienfuegos, Cuba; Holguín, Cuba; Santa Clara, Cuba; Cap-Haïtien, Haiti; Port-au-Prince, Haiti; Kingston, Jamaica; Montego Bay, Jamaica; Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands.
You are eligible for the waiver if you are traveling on an American Airlines flight purchased before Oct. 1; you’re scheduled to travel Oct. 1-6; you can travel Sept. 3o – Oct. 9; and you don’t change your origin or destination.
Where the waiver is in effect: Eleuthera, Exuma, Freeport / Grand Bahama, Marsh Harbour and Nassau.
You are eligible for the waiver if you are traveling on an American Airlines flight purchased before Sept. 30; you’re scheduled to travel Oct. 2-7; you can travel Sept. 30-Oct. 11; and you don’t change your origin or destination.
Waiver benefits: Receive one itinerary change; rules and restrictions regarding standard change fees, advance purchase, day or time applications, blackouts, and minimum or maximum stay requirements will be waived. Also, travellers on eligible flights may request a refund.
Where the waiver is in effect: Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and St. Augustine.
You are eligible for the waiver if you were originally scheduled to fly Oct. 5-8 and purchased your ticket on or before Oct. 4. Travel on rescheduled flight must be completed by Oct. 29.
Waiver benefits: No change/cancel fees and waived fare differences for eligible flights.
Where the waiver is in effect: Charleston, S.C.; Raleigh/Durham, N.C.; Savannah/Hilton Head, Ga.; and Daytona Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Orlando and West Palm Beach.
You are eligible for the waiver if you were supposed to fly from Oct. 5-9 and booked your flight on or before Oct. 4. You may rebook from now through Oct. 18, before your originally scheduled flight was set to depart.
Where the waiver is in effect: Kingston, Jamaica; Montego Bay, Jamaica; Nassau, Bahamas; Port-au-Prince, Haiti; Providenciales, Turks and Caicos; Santa Clara, Cuba.
You are eligible for the waiver if you were supposed to fly from Oct. 2-6 and booked your flight on or before Sept. 30. You may rebook from now through Oct. 10, before your originally scheduled flight was set to depart.
Waiver benefits: No additional charge for rebooking for eligible flights.
Where the waiver is in effect: Charleston, S.C.; and Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Orlando and West Palm Beach.
You are eligible for the waiver if you were scheduled to fly Oct. 4-8 and rebook in the same class as originally scheduled within 14 days of the original date of travel between the same originating city and destination.
Where the waiver is in effect: Montego Bay and Nassau.
You are eligible for the waiver if you were scheduled to fly Sept. 30-Oct. 5 for Montego Bay and Oct. 2-7 for Nassau, and rebook in the same class as originally scheduled within 14 days of the original date of travel between the same originating city and destination.
Waiver benefits: No modification charge/fare difference for eligible flights.
Where the waiver is in effect: Fort Lauderdale and Orlando.
You are eligible for the waiver if you were scheduled to fly Oct. 6-7, and rebook your flight before Oct. 14. After Oct. 14, the modification charge still will be waived, but a fare difference will apply.
Where the waiver is in effect: Myrtle Beach, S.C.
You are eligible for the waiver if you were scheduled to fly Oct. 7-8, and rebook your flight before Oct. 14. After Oct. 14, the modification charge still will be waived, but a fare difference will apply.
The airline has canceled a slew of flights into and out of Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Sanford. Those flights will be rescheduled, and passengers on the affected flights will be contacted via email, Allegiant said. Check here for updates.
Until Wednesday, several airlines had received approval to fly to Cuban cities not including Havana. The JetBlue flight that took off from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Wednesday morning was heading to Santa Clara, about three hours from Havana.
Now JetBlue, along with seven other carriers, have the final OK from the U.S. government to seek approval from Cuba to finalize flight schedules and destinations.
Here is the full list of airlines, along with their proposed routes and frequency:
• Alaska Airlines — Los Angeles, once daily
• American Airlines — Miami, four times a day; Charlotte, once daily
• Delta Air Lines — New York (JFK), once daily; Atlanta, once daily; Miami, once daily
• Frontier Airlines — Miami, once daily
• JetBlue Airways — Fort Lauderdale, twice daily (except once on Saturdays); New York (JFK), once daily; Orlando, once daily
• Southwest Airlines — Fort Lauderdale, twice daily; Tampa, once daily
• Spirit Airlines — Fort Lauderdale, twice daily
• United Airlines — Newark, once daily; Houston, once weekly (Saturdays)
The decision by the Department of Transportation places Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport as one of the top airports serving Cuba, with about 40 flights daily just to Havana.
Marking the departure of JetBlue’s first commercial flight to Cuba on Wednesday, Fort Lauderdale airport CEO and Director Mark Gale said the number of flights to Cuba out of the airport is a “testament to the reputation of Fort Lauderdale.”
Stacy Ritter, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, called Wednesday’s flight to Cuba “a milestone.”
“To be the first in something so historic is truly astounding,” she said.
Four Florida cities are among 10 chosen as possible locations for flights to and from the Cuban capital beginning this fall.
The list of cities was released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Transportation and includes Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Orlando and Tampa, along with Atlanta, Charlotte, Houston, Los Angeles, Newark and New York City.
“Today we take another important step toward delivering on President Obama’s promise to reengage Cuba,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a news release. “Restoring regular air service holds tremendous potential to reunite Cuban American families and foster education and opportunities for American businesses of all sizes.”
Foxx also said eight airlines tentatively have been chosen as carriers for Havana flights: Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines and United Airlines.
In making the decision on which U.S. cities to include in the proposal, the DOT said it looked for areas with large Cuban-American populations, along with areas that are aviation hubs.
The DOT said 12 U.S. airlines applied to offer service to Havana. The department did not release the names of the four airlines that did not make the cut.
The release of the proposed cities and carriers follows an agreement signed in February between the U.S. and Cuba to open air service between the two countries after more than 50 years. The arragement allows for each country to operate up to 20 roundtrip flights each day between Havana and the U.S.
Those traveling to Cuba must fall under one of 12 categories set by the U.S. government: family visits; official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments and certain intergovernmental organizations; journalistic activity; professional research and professional meetings; educational activities; religious activities; public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; support for the Cuban people; humanitarian projects; activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; exportation, importation or transmission of information or information materials; and certain authorized export transactions. Read more here about what you need to travel to Cuba.
The DOT said it will release its final decision later this summer.