Inching closer to commercial flights between the US and Cuba

Posted: 11-Dec-15 10:33

Regular scheduled flights between both nations have been suspended since 1960, when the US imposed trade embargo was established. Now, high officials from the US government have revealed that an agreement aimed at restoring commercial flights can potentially be closed before 2015 ends.

Inching closer to commercial flights between the US and Cuba

Restoring commercial airline services between the United States and Cuba is looking more like a real possibility before the year ends after a recent meeting held at the start of December with the participation of officials in the aviation sector from both countries. Having taken place in Havana, during said meeting the option of establishing a codeshare was also discussed.

A US official familiar with the diplomatic talks being currently held between both nations told Reuters that:

"... one more meeting might be enough to finalise an arrangement."

Both parts convened to meet again before the end of the year. This could effectively mean that by 2016 regular flights connecting Cuba and the U.S. could start operating for the first time in 50 years, offering new, more convenient and more reliable travelling options for US visitors heading to Cuba and viceversa.

After December 2014 marked the dawn of a new diplomatic era for the US and Cuba; the number of US citizens and residents interested in visiting the island has substantially increased, but they still depend on special licenses granted by the US government under 12 specific categories in order to legally travel to Cuba.

For the time being American travellers planning to visit the island are forced to use charters or licensed private jets as their only options to get to the island by air. Some charter companies are licensed by the U.S. Treasury Department to sell travel packages to Cuba, and the flights are operated by U.S. carriers.

On January, president Barack Obama announced a package of new regulations for easing commercial and political relationships with Cuba, allowing more airlines to make business with the island. Just at the start of this month Jet Blue added a second charter flight from New York's John F. Kennedy airport to Havana's Inernational Jose Marti airport.

By expanding charter services now, airline companies are expecting to be ahead of the opening of commercial air travel between the two countries, even when Cuban authorities need to first find a way in which costumers are able to book travel directly with airlines.

Recent talks in Havana included discussions about a codeshare, which is an agreement signed by two airlines to jointly manage a particular route while allowing both to sell flight seats at the same time. Many expect American Airlines to be the pioneering company to operate this service.

Also during the talks, where officials from six US government agencies met officials from the Cuban Foreign Ministry and the Cuban Institute of Civil Aviation, the two sides have agreed to work on updating a 1953 civil aviation agreement that is still valid but logically obsolete.

Safety and security cooperation are among the topics discussed in the meeting. Authorities have informed that, in this area, conversations are moving forward very fast, largely because existing charter flights already meet U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and Transportation Safety Administration standards.


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