US, Cuba Sign Deal on Commercial Flights
By MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN, ASSOCIATED PRESS –
The United States and Cuba signed a deal Tuesday restoring commercial air traffic for the first time in five decades, allowing dozens of new daily flights to bring hundreds of thousands more American travelers a year to the island as early as this fall.
Immediately after the signing, the U.S. Department of Transportation opened bidding by American air carriers on as many as 110 U.S.-Cuba flights a day — more than five times the current number. All flights operating between the two countries today are charters.
Barring other major announcements, the restart of commercial flights will be the most significant development in U.S.-Cuba trade since Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro announced in late 2014 that they would begin normalizing ties after a half-century of Cold War opposition. The Obama administration is eager to make rapid progress on building trade and diplomatic ties with Cuba before the president leaves office. The coming weeks are seen as particularly crucial to building momentum ahead of a trip he hopes to make to Havana by the end of March.
“Today is a historic day in the relationship between Cuba and the U.S.,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said after he and Transportation Minister Adel Yzquierdo Rodriguez signed the deal in a ceremony at Havana’s Hotel Nacional. “It represents a critically important milestone in the U.S. effort to engage with Cuba.”
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