NEW YORK – The Cuban and U.S. governments on Tuesday signed a memorandum of understanding on civil aviation that includes the establishment of direct air routes between the two nations for the first time in 50 years and is set to take effect in the fall.
Several U.S. airlines immediately applauded the historic civil aviation accord.
“As a leading airline to the Caribbean and 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,” said JetBlue in a statement.
The memorandum of understanding between the two governments was signed Tuesday in Havana by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and his Cuban counterpart, Adel Yzquierdo.
“JetBlue congratulates ... the Obama Administration for their work on this important milestone,” said Rob Land, JetBlue’s senior vice president for government affairs and associate general counsel.
“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.
The firm says that in 2015 it operated about 1,200 charter flights to Cuba and now will seek to establish regular direct flights to the island from Miami, although it did not rule out including other U.S. airports in its connection plans.
Meanwhile, United Airlines called the accord “historic” and also announced its intention to participate in the bidding process to secure new routes, according to a statement it sent to EFE.
Delta Airlines will also bid on routes to Cuba, according to the firm’s vice president for Latin America and the Caribbean, Nicolas Ferri.
U.S. airlines will have until March 2 to apply to the Department of Transportation for permission to fly to Cuba.
U.S. airlines will now be able to start bidding on routes for up to 110 daily flights, more than five times the current number. The agreement allows for 20 regular daily U.S. flights to the Cuban capital, along with the current 10-15 charter flights a day, while the remaining flights would be to other Cuban cities.
The bidding process is scheduled to begin on Wednesday with U.S. airlines presenting their bids to the Department of Transportation for the routes they want to secure.