By NAN Staff Writer
News Americas, WASHINGTON, D.C., Fri. Dec. 18, 2015: On the one-year anniversary of renewed US-Cuba relations, the United States and Cuba have struck a deal to allow regular airline flights to the Communist nation.
The deal reached Wednesday night opens up negotiations to airlines and allows up to 20 daily routes to Havana. The new deal could see a surge of American travel to Cuba.
The United States and Cuba reached the bilateral arrangement to establish scheduled air services between the two countries after meetings between Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Transportation Affairs Thomas Engle l and Ambassador Yuri Gala Lopez.
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.
While U.S. law continues to prohibit travel to Cuba for tourist activities, a stronger civil aviation relationship will facilitate growth in authorized travel between the two countries – a critical component of the President’s policy toward Cuba.
It came after three days of talks in Washington. While it will likely take months before the first commercial flight to Havana, the reestablishment of regular aviation to Cuba after half a century will almost certainly be the biggest business development since the two countries began normalizing relations last year.
“We are advancing our shared interests and working together on complex issues that for too long defined and divided us,” President Barack Obama said in a statement issued Thursday.”Meanwhile, the United States is in a stronger position to engage the people and governments of our hemisphere,” he added. “Congress can support a better life for the Cuban people by lifting an embargo that is a legacy of a failed policy.”
December 17, 2015, marked one year since President Obama announced an historic opening between the United States and Cuba, ending a failed policy of isolation, and announcing steps to empower the Cuban people, normalize relations with the Cuban government, and more effectively support U.S. interests in Cuba.
In January and September, the Departments of the Treasury and Commerce announced regulatory changes to, among other things, make it easier for Americans to travel to Cuba and strengthen people-to-people ties.
U.S. travel to Cuba has increased by 54 percent over the past year. There have also been recent deals between U.S. telecommunications companies and Cuba and U.S. and Cuban agencies are set to collaborate to secure passenger ferries, aircraft and private vessels traveling between the countries, exchange best practices for detection of fraudulent documents and further practical cooperation in areas including customs and passenger screening.