Following three decades of charter only flight connections, Cuba and the U.S. have signed a memorandum of understanding on the resumption of regular flights between the two countries, a further element in the process towards the normalization of relations agreed by both governments.

Once in effect, the accord will facilitate up to 110 flights per day to 10 Cuban destinations from different states within the union, in addition to those offered by charter companies currently operating.

Following three decades of charter only flight connections, Cuba and the U.S. have signed a memorandum of understanding on the resumption of regular flights between the two countries, a further element in the process towards the normalization of relations agreed by both governments.The important memorandum was signed in Havana’s Hotel Nacional by U.S. Transport Secretary, Anthony Foxx and his Cuban counterpart Adel Yzquierdo, who later met in private.

As this was taking place in Havana, the Department of Transport in Washington authorized the opening of talks with airline companies interested in flying to Cuba.

Each such airline could operate up to 10 regular flights per day to any Cuban city with an international airport.

These destinations presently are Havana, Camaguey, Cayo Coco, Cayo Largo, Cienfuegos, Holguin, Manzanillo, Matanzas, Santa Clara and Santiago de Cuba. The Cuban aviation authorities are willing to listen to future requests to increase service levels.

However, such measures have not been reciprocated, and aviation authorities in Washington have gone so far as to rule out any possibility in the immediate future of Cuban aircraft flying to destinations in the U.S.

Nevertheless, this agreement represents a giant step towards the normalization of relations announced on December 17, 2014.

To date, Foxx is the fourth member of Obama’s cabinet to visit Cuba since the reopening of embassies. He followed Secretary of State, John Kerry; of Trade, Penny Pritzker; and of Agriculture, Thomas Vilsack.

Cuba has also received Congress members and Governors who – because they consider it to be obsolete and counter-productive – support the lifting of the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed on Cuba since 1962, despite worldwide rejection.

According to experts consulted by The Havana Reporter, regular flights will facilitate the sale of trips to Cuba and enhance the range of options that can even, thanks to Global Distribution Systems (GDSS), be reserved from home.

Major airlines such as JetBlue, United, American Airlines, Delta and Southwest have expressed their interest in opening routes to Cuba.

Cuban and U.S, airlines could also have commercial cooperation agreements with shared codes and aircraft rentals involving third airlines.

The increased number of fights will mean a rise in the numbers of visitors arriving in Cuba and a boom for the U.S. tourist industry, even though U.S. citizens are still prohibited from traveling to Cuba.

Since the rapprochement between Havana and Washington commenced, there has been a 54% increase in trips from the United States to Cuba and a 60% rise in the number of North American visitors.

Any further rise might put pressure on Cuba’s tourism infrastructure, which needs to work on improvements.

One step at a time and one flight at a time, distances between both nations are becoming shorter, even though the deepest and widest breach of all has still to be crossed, the blockade that despite crumbling somewhat, still refuses to fall...

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