The U.S. and Cuba to Resume Commercial Flights

Havana, Cuba // Photo by Joe Pike

The United States and Cuba have reached an agreement to resume commercial air travel between the two countries for the first time in more than half a century, the State Department announced Thursday.

According to CNN, the deal was finalized last night. The official CNN spoke to could not say when flights would actually resume, because there are other steps the Federal Aviation Administration needs to take to ensure certain safety regulations are in place.

And following today's announcement, American Airlines plans to submit a U.S.-Cuba service proposal to the U.S. Department of Transportation with the hope of introducing scheduled service soon in 2016, according to the CNN report. 

United Airlines issued the following statement today after the U.S. and Cuban governments agreed to reinstitute scheduled air service between the two nations.

“United Airlines congratulates the U.S. and Cuban governments on reaching this historic arrangement, which will strengthen ties and economic development between the two countries. We look forward to offering service between our global gateways and Cuba as soon as we have approval to do so,” the statement read. 

JetBlue has also said that it will submit an application for new Cuba routes to the U.S. Department of Transportation once the airline has fully reviewed terms of the agreement and has clarity on the process and timing of assigning frequencies to U.S. airlines.

"Interest in Cuba has reached levels not seen for a generation," said Scott Laurence, senior vice president airline planning, JetBlue, in a written release. "We will review the terms of the agreement to understand how JetBlue can expand from charter service to regularly scheduled service."

Laurence addd that he hopes JetBlue's next destination would be Havana, as well as possibly other destinations in Cuba. 

The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) President and CEO, Zane Kerby, also issued a statement regarding the U.S. State Department's recent announcement.

"ASTA congratulates the State Department on reaching an agreement with Cuba that brings us closer to restoring the right of all Americans to fly to Cuba, which has been denied them for far too long," said Kerby. "ASTA member travel agents believe that Americans ought to be allowed to travel across the globe without restriction, allowing them to act as ambassadors of freedom and American values abroad.
"ASTA estimates at least two million additional Americans could visit Cuba by 2017 if Congress votes for a full lifting of travel restrictions before the end of this year," continued Kerby. "While U.S. law still prohibits travel to Cuba for tourist activities, we are encouraged by the continued progress made by the Obama Administration, and we strongly urge Congress to fully repeal the travel ban once and for all."

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