U.S., Cuba Agree to Restore Scheduled Air Service
United States and Cuban officials recently signed an arrangement that provides for the re-establishment of scheduled air services between the United States and Cuba.
Immediately following the signing, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) invited U.S. air carriers to apply for an allocation of the new opportunities to provide scheduled passenger and cargo flights.
“We are excited to announce the availability of new scheduled air service opportunities to Cuba for U.S. carriers, shippers, and the traveling public, and we will conduct this proceeding in a manner designed to maximize public benefits,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.
U.S. airlines welcomed the development.
“American Airlines commends the U.S. government for its commitment to re-establishing cultural and economic ties between the U.S. and Cuba, and for laying the groundwork to restore scheduled air service between the two countries for the first time in more than 50 years,” said American’s Chairman and CEO Doug Parker. “We applaud the Administration for making commercial air service a priority and we thank Secretary Foxx, Secretary Kerry and their teams for their leadership in finalizing this arrangement. American looks forward to submitting a Cuba service proposal to the Department of Transportation in the coming weeks.”
“JetBlue congratulates Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx on signing today’s air services agreement in Havana and commends the Department of Transportation, Secretary John Kerry and the Department of State and the Obama Administration for their work on this important milestone,” said Rob Land, JetBlue’s senior vice president government affairs and associate general counsel. “As an experienced carrier serving Cuba with charter flights since 2011, JetBlue eagerly awaits the opportunity to grow our service with regularly scheduled routes between various U.S. and Cuban cities.”
In 2014, the Obama administration announced its intention to re-establish diplomatic relations and embark on a process of normalization with Cuba. Less than one year later, in December 2015, after several months of negotiations, the governments of the United States and Cuba concluded negotiations on a non-legally binding arrangement to re-establish scheduled air services between the two countries.
This new arrangement will facilitate visits for travelers who fall under one of 12 categories authorized by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). There have been no scheduled flights between the United States and Cuba for over half a century.
The new arrangement provides each country with the opportunity to operate up to 20 daily roundtrip flights between the United States and Havana. The arrangement also provides each country with the opportunity to operate up to 10 daily roundtrip flights between the United States and each of Cuba’s nine other international airports, providing U.S. carriers with the opportunity to operate up to a total of 110 daily roundtrip flights between the United States and Cuba. The arrangement does not limit charter services, meaning that no DOT allocation procedures are needed and charter flights can continue as before.
The DOT order invites applications from U.S. carriers and initiates a proceeding for DOT to select which U.S. carriers will be able to offer scheduled flights to Cuba, and from which U.S. points. In making its selection, DOT will consider which proposals will offer and maintain the best service to the traveling and shipping public. The department says it intends to reach a final decision expeditiously.
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