U.S. Department of Transportation announced today that air service between Cuba and America will be restored after a 50-year hiatus. Immediately following a signed agreement, U.S. air carriers were urged to bid on scheduled commercial and cargo flights between the two countries. The first flights are expected to take off later this year.
Pending the approval of the Department of Transportation, airlines from both countries will be able to operate up to 20 daily roundtrip flights between the U.S. and Havana. They will also be allowed to operate 10 additional daily roundtrip flights between the U.S. and nine other international airports—Varadero, Holguín, Santa Clara, Cayo Coco, Cayo Largo del Sur, Camagüey, Cienfuegos, Santiago de Cuba and Manzanillo de Cuba—on the island for a total of 110 flights. The new agreement imposes no limits on existing charter service.
Several U.S. carriers, including American Airlines, Southwest and JetBlue have already announced that they will submit proposals for access to the coveted route. Miami and New York City are expected to land most of the flights, as both cities are home to some of the largest Cuban populations outside of Cuba.
The agreement was authorized by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Charles Rivkin, Cuban Minister of Transportation Adel Yxquierdo Rodriguez and President of the Cuban Civil Aviation Institute and Ministry of Transportation Colonel Alfredo Cordero Puig.
“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,” said Foxx in a statement.
After President Obama announced his intentions to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba, both countries concluded negotiations on re-establishing commercial flights in December 2015. Travel for U.S. citizens is not without restrictions—visitors must meet criteria under one of 12 categories before traveling to Cuba. But today’s agreement marks a major stride in relations with Cuba.