Airlines Get OK to Book Direct Commercial Flights to Cuba

American Airlines
American Airlines is one of the companies expected to take quick advantage of the opportunity to provide regular commercial flights to Cuba.  Photo:

HAVANA TIMES — The governments of Cuba and the United States agreed to restore direct commercial flights between the two countries after more than half a century, the US State Department announced today, reported dpa news.

The agreement, which comes a year after the initial reestablishment of relations, should enable regular air links for the first time since the 60s. Interested companies must now come to terms with Cuban authorities to incorporate routes.

Until now you could only fly between the US and Cuba on charter flights or through third countries. The two governments reached the agreement on Wednesday, said a State Department spokesman. The Cuban side had informed earlier in the week that the two countries were finalizing “an understanding” during negotiations that took place in Washington.

“This agreement will continue to allow charter flights and establish regular air service, which will facilitate an increase in the authorized travel and expand travel options,” said the US statement.

Trips to Cuba from the US have skyrocketed in the last 12 months after the announcement of the thaw. Tourism industry experts expect this year for 600,000 people travel to the Caribbean island from the United States.

As part of the rapprochement with the government in Havana, the administration of Barack Obama this year eased travel restrictions for US citizens to Cuba. While the travel ban on tourism is still in effect (as part of the US embargo against Cuba) the visitors are authorized to travel under 12 categories, such as cultural exchanges or for family reasons for Cuban-Americans.

A few days ago the two countries also announced the reestablishment of direct mail after more than a half century.

15 thoughts on “Airlines Get OK to Book Direct Commercial Flights to Cuba

  • December 21, 2015 at 9:27 pm

    Time is really running out Moses and that’s a fact. I will mention Antonio Castro as a possible conduit to get the ball rolling. I was shocked by an ESPN interview and his comments regarding the defecting Baseball players and his views. He is way sharper than I thought and did a very good job in handling the questions. No party line BS and like Bruno Rodriguez, no thousand mile stare. We all know his lineage but I believe he knows what needs to be done to get Cuba
    back into the free world. The tourist dollars are what makes the difference but if the infrastructure isn’t fixed and fixed quickly that will turn to dust.

  • December 20, 2015 at 12:14 pm

    Actually, pimping Cuban doctors is the biggest revenue source for the Castros. Tourism is second. Property rights are a valid concern for foreign investors, as you suggest, but the two more pressing issues are staffing control and ownership equity. Foreign managers can not make hiring/firing decisions and continue to be limited to 49% ownership interests.

  • December 18, 2015 at 7:22 pm

    Tourism is Cuba’s biggest revenue draw so that’s where the money is and investment is necessary to build the infrastructure and above the ground physical buildings. I lived in Hawaii in the seventies and worked to set up communication networks with the travel industry and worldwide networks linking countries and agencies. Keep in mind, up until the late seventies, most land in Hawaii was leased not owned and that was set up intentionally by the various estates related to the days of Hawaiian royalty. The funds and trust revenues go to Kamehameha Schools and several other major funds for Hawaiians. The same could be done in Cuba, lease the land with the option to buy. Regardless, There will be a solution to this and it will have to be quick since buildings and properties throughout Cuba are crumbling. And by the way, liquor and cigars are big exports when the markets open up but of course not enough to make a dent in fixing the dam. ps: Saw Antonio Castro on ESPN and he was better than expected. Watch out for his rising star.

  • December 18, 2015 at 9:03 am

    The “real problem” as you point out is exactly what I mean when I say that the Castros have to get their act together. Slapping on a coat of paint and planting a few more palm trees ain’t cutting it. Major airport infrastructure investment is necessary. The Castros need big-league money. They are going to have blink first, second, third, etc. to attract that kind of investment.

  • December 18, 2015 at 8:46 am

    The notion of “build it and they will come” is the stuff of fairy tales and Disneyland Paris. In the real world if the Castros want the kind of up front investment they need they are going to have to give up something. So, let’s see. …we don’t need doctors. We have all the rum we need. We aren’t big cigar smokers. We even have cheap medicine. So what’s left? Nothing. That’s the problem. The Castros don’t have anything to trade.

  • December 17, 2015 at 8:03 pm

    Where there’s money, there’s a way and I assure you there’s money! The real problem will be housing as the throngs who will be heading to Cuba will need lodging and basic necessities. If the heads of state understand the potential, they better change their attitudes and get the ball rolling. Billions needs to be spent just to get these projects off the ground. Question now who will blink first with regards to the expat’s and the money they have to invest and the regime.

  • December 17, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    GREAT. With that we should be seeing some lower fares to Cuba.

  • December 17, 2015 at 11:20 am

    Landing privileges in the US come at a high price. The FAA requires foreign carriers to meet a rigorous maintenance schedule and maintain transparent record-keeping. Anyone who has ever flown Cubana Airlines knows that this will be, at best, a challenge for the Castros. On the other side, major US carriers demand high-end aircraft support services to ensure rapid turnaround. Again, despite the recent Brazil – financed renovations to Jose Marti Int’l in Havana, it is not likely that the major carriers are in a rush to land in Cuba and risk stranding their planes for lack of equipment necessary to make the common repairs that come up. Bottom line: this is good news for the Obama administration’s PR campaign to establish his Cuba legacy. But in real terms doesn’t mean a whole lot. Cuba has to get its own act together before these new opportunities will bring value.

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