American Airlines keen to fly Miami-Cuba

Posted: 24-Jan-15 18:05

After years of travel restrictions towards Cuba, American tourists may soon be able to fly direct to the island via American Airlines. The US government has lifted many restrictions on travelling to Cuba, after an historic deal to re-establish full diplomatic ties was struck. However, they won't be the first to offer flights, and a competition is now brewing between US carriers.

American Airlines keen to fly Miami-Cuba

After years of travel restrictions towards Cuba, Americans may soon be able to fly direct to the island. "We don't have anything to announce today," American Airlines president Scott Kirby has said, "but we will be anxious to start serving Cuba as soon as it's legally allowed." Kirby added that the airline was looking to add regular commercial flights from Miami.

The US government has lifted many restrictions on travelling to the Caribbean island this month, after a deal to re-establish full diplomatic ties was struck by US President Barack Obama and Cuba President Raul Castro at the end of 2014.

Former Cuban president Fidel Castro released a letter stating that while he does not trust the US, he backs the restoration of relations that were severed when he rose to power in the early 1960s.

Other airlines have beat American Airlines to the punch, however. JetBlue and Sun Country currently offer charter flights to the Caribbean island, of which American operates 20 from Tampa and Miami. There is further interest from Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, JetBlue and Delta Airlines, which have all said they are interested in flying to Cuba, though it is unclear when routes will open.

Such an agreement already exists from Cuba's pre-revolutionary days as a hub of beach resorts. New U.S. government rules issued this month relaxed travel restrictions that have stood for 54 years since the communist revolution in Cuba. American travellers to Cuba no longer have to obtain a license from the US government under the loosened restrictions, but trips are limited to 12 categories including visiting close relatives, journalism, humanitarian missions and educational tours. Tourism is not an approved reason to visit as yet.

The lifting of restrictions has already seen a rush of interest in trade and tourism with Cuba. Credit card companies American Express and Mastercard have signposted a desire to do business in Cuba, with the latter unblocking US card transactions in March 2015.

There will also be a more relaxed stance taken on the amount of Cuban goods taken in to the US, and the amount of money that Cubans can send back to relatives, though this will require a full lifting of the embargo – which is subject to Congressional approval.


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