Cuba and the U.S. reach agreement on commercial flights

Posted: 18-Dec-15 16:31

It has finally happened, the moment many were eagerly waiting for has been announced after months of build-up and expectation surrounding one of the biggest things to change and shape the world of Cuba travel for U.S. visitors and potential holidaymakers. Almost exactly one year after both countries declared their mutual intentions to find a path towards understanding and Obama gave a speech announcing the reestablishment of diplomatic ties, this latest move is the perfect culmination marking the climax point of a fruitful year where much has been made to bring the two nations closer.

Cuba and the U.S. reach agreement on commercial flights

It’s a done deed. Finally, commercial flights connecting Cuba and the U.S. are no longer a hypothesis (or what for years had been considered a utopia) and as soon as next year we could see direct scheduled flights between the two nations being a regular occurrence.

For months both countries’ civil aviation authorities had been in talks about finalising a deal but things took longer than expected and negotiations were done in various stages to ensure both sides agreed on different issues pertaining the new deal and updated a 1953 agreement that remained valid but had become obsolete.

A welcome addition to the limited (and pricey) alternative that charter flights had offered so far as the only way for Americans to travel to Cuba by air from the U.S. no date has yet been given for when the commercial routes will be resumed but at least we know that the first commercial flights will be operated by American Airlines (as was expected and we announced earlier) and will operate between Miami International Airport (MIA) and Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport (HAV).

The new agreement reached as early as yesterday, when it was also announced to the world, will allow up to 110 daily return flights operated by U.S. airlines. At least this is what Thomas Engle, U.S. deputy assistant secretary for transportation, revealed during his speech. According to him these new flights include 20 daily flights to Havana and 10 to other major airports across the largest island in the Antilles. He added that whilst no final date had been arranged for the final signing of the new aviation pact nothing now was expected to modify or derail it.

Yesterday, the U.S. State Department made the following official announcement:

"This arrangement will continue to allow charter operations and establish scheduled air service, which will facilitate an increase in authorized travel, enhance traveler choices and promote people-to-people links between the two countries."

Although the new move could potentially damage the stronghold that charters enjoyed in the island as new commercial routes will become an even stronger competition that will push ticket prices down, various members of the airline industry praised the new agreement.

Scott Laurence, Senior Vice President at JetBlue, which already operates various charter routes to the island and recently expanded the frequency of its operations to Havana from New York’s J.F Kennedy airport, said:

"Interest in Cuba has reached levels not seen for a generation. We will review the terms of the agreement to understand how JetBlue can expand from charter service to regularly scheduled service. Our years of experience in Cuba and unmatched customer experience positions JetBlue as the carrier of choice for travel to Cuba."

This crowning point in the restoring of relations between Cuba and the U.S. happens one year after Obama got the ball rolling with his inspiring speech on abandoning his government’s previous approach of isolation and disengagement, saying that for Cuba to change it needed more exposure and influence from big democracies, like the one of the giant neighbour.

Just a few days ago the reestablishment of official postal services between the two countries was also announced after nearly six decades of complete shut-down. Before this letters and parcels had to be sent to Cuba through third countries like Canada or Mexico.


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