U.S., Cuba agree to restore scheduled flights after more than 50 years

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The United States and Cuba have signed an arrangement that provides for the re-establishment of scheduled air services after more than 50 years, officials say, less than a year after the countries restored diplomatic relations.

The agreement was signed on Tuesday by two officials from each country, including U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Cuban Minister of Transportation Adel Yzquierdo Rodriguez. It followed months of aviation talks that both countries had initially hoped to wrap up by the end of last year.

Under the new agreement, each country will have the opportunity to operate up to 20 daily roundtrip flights between the United States and Havana, as well as the opportunity to operate up to 10 daily roundtrip flights between the United States and each of Cuba’s nine other international airports.

This will allow U.S. and Cuban carriers to operate up to 110 daily roundtrip flights between the United States and Cuba, as well as an unlimited number of charter services.

“We are excited to announce the availability of new scheduled air service opportunities to Cuba for U.S. carriers, shippers, and the traveling public, and we will conduct this proceeding in a manner designed to maximize public benefits,” Foxx said in a statement, inviting U.S. carriers to apply for scheduled flights to Cuba.

United Airlines and JetBlue both welcomed the agreement. “United intends to apply to offer service between some of its global gateways and Havana through the Department of Transportation’s pending route case,” it said. “Assuming service is approved, United customers will benefit from United’s expanded global route network and new opportunities for leisure and business travel to Cuba.”

Relations between the former Cold War foes have rapidly improved over the last few years with the formal re-establishment of diplomatic relations in July 2015. Both countries have since re-opened their embassies and reached agreements in various areas, including the re-establishment of direct postal services and cruises to Cuba.

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