|Havana, Cuba // Photo by Joe Pike|
United Airlines and American Airlines both issued separate statements Tuesday morning in regard to Monday's reopening of the U.S. Embassy in Havana and the Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C.
"United Airlines congratulates the U.S. and Cuban governments on the historic reopening of their embassies today in both countries' capitals, which have been closed for more than a half century," read United's official statement. "We look forward to continuing our constructive dialogue with both governments about providing our customers service between our two nations, subject to government approval."
American, the leading carrier to the Caribbean with up to 150 daily flights to 31 destinations in the region, issued a similar statement.
"The reopening of the United States and Cuban embassies in Havana and Washington is an important step toward building new commercial relationships and re-establishing scheduled air service between the U.S. and Cuba," said Doug Parker, American's chairman and CEO, in a written release. "American Airlines has operated charter flights to Cuba for nearly 25 years and we stand ready to begin scheduled service when it's allowed."
American has operated flights to Cuba since 1991 with charter service from Miami and Tampa to five key destinations – Camaguey, Cienfuegos, Havana, Holguin and Santa Clara. This year, American and Envoy will operate nearly 1,100 charter flights to the island.
It was announced back in December that the United States would restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba and open an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than 50 years.
In a deal negotiated during 18 months of secret talks hosted largely by Canada and encouraged by Pope Francis, who hosted a final meeting at the Vatican (and is the first Pope from Latin America), U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro agreed in a telephone call to put aside decades of hostility to find a new relationship between the United States and the island nation just 90 minutes off the American coast.
Previously, Washington and Havana had had no diplomatic relations, and the United States has maintained a trade embargo on Cuba since the 1950s.
This restoration will make it easier for Americans to travel to Cuba and do business with the Cuban people by extending general licenses. While the more liberal travel restrictions won't allow for tourism, they will permit greater American travel to the island. And it is believed by many in the tourism industry, that all travel restrictions will be lifted someday soon.