MIAMI — The United States and Cuba have reached a bilateral agreement to establish scheduled air services between the two nations for the first time in nearly 50 years, the U.S. State Department announced this Thursday.
While U.S. law continues to prohibit U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba for tourist activities, a stronger civil aviation relationship will facilitate growth in authorized travel between both countries. Currently only authorized charter flights are allowed to fly between the USA and Cuba. These flights are operated by carriers such as American Airlines, JetBlue, Delta, Eastern Air Lines, and Atlantic World, to name a few.
“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.” The U.S. State Department said.
American Airlines, Delta, JetBlue and United Airlines welcomed the Department of State announcement.
American Airlines praised the decision and expressed interest in adding more flights to Cuba. American’s chairman and CEO Doug Parker said in a statement “As the leading carrier to the Caribbean and the leading U.S. airline to Cuba, we look forward to establishing scheduled service to Cuba in 2016, from Miami and other American hubs. We appreciate the Administration’s efforts and the hard work of the U.S. negotiators to reach this arrangement.”
Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines also applauded the agreement. Spokesman Anthony Black stated that the airline “will will work with the DOT on next steps and look forward to beginning service as soon as the opportunity becomes available.”
Meanwhile, JetBlue also announced that will submit applications for new routes to the Department of Transportation once the carrier has fully reviewed the terms of the agreement. “Interest in Cuba has reached levels not seen for a generation,” said Scott Laurence, senior vice president airline planning, JetBlue. “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.”
United Airlines issued a brief press release in which the carrier “Congratulates the U.S. and Cuban governments on reaching this historic arrangement, which will strengthen ties and economic development between the two countries. We look forward to offering service between our global gateways and Cuba as soon as we have approval to do so.”
The resuming of scheduled air travel is the latest step to normalize ties between the two countries, interrupted since 1961. And despite U.S. carriers are willing to open scheduled service to Cuba, it is unclear when these would actually resume as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires to verify that safety regulations in Cuban airports are duly in place.