WASHINGTON – The U.S. government announced on Friday the upcoming signing of a memorandum of understanding with Cuba in the field of civil aviation that will pave the way for direct commercial flights by fall of this year.
Up to 20 direct flights daily will be permitted from the U.S. to Havana, and 10 more to another nine international airports in Cuba, including those at Santiago de Cuba, Manzanillo and Camaguey, Thomas Engle, deputy assistant secretary of State for transportation, said in a conference call.
The memorandum of understanding will be signed next Tuesday in Havana by Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and his Cuban counterpart, Adel Yzquierdo.
The accord will permit the continuation of charter airlines’ existing operations, which amount to between 10 and 15 flights a day to Cuba, Engle said.
The U.S. government will now open the bidding so airlines can make their offers, a process that for the moment will exclude Cubana de Aviacion until it receives authorization from the Treasury Department, and will award the permits to cover these routes next summer.
“This provides for a very important sizable increase in travel between the two countries,” Engle said.
The accord is part of the process currently underway to restore relations between the United States and Cuba.
On December 17, 2014, Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro announced the beginning of a process to normalize bilateral relations that led to the reopening last July of the two countries’ respective embassies in Havana and Washington, after a rupture of more than 50 years.
“Expanding travel between the two countries is a key element of the president’s broader policy of normalizing relations between the two countries. This is more people-to-people contacts. That’s just all to the good of mutual understanding between two countries that have had strained relations for decades,” Engle said Friday.