Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Civil Aviation Accord with Cuba to Be Signed Tuesday

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Civil Aviation Accord with Cuba to Be Signed Tuesday

Article excerpt

The United States and Cuba will sign a civil aviation agreement in Havana on Tuesday, opening the door for U.S. airlines to begin offering scheduled service between the two countries for the first time since the early 1960s. Beginning Tuesday, commercial passenger and cargo airlines will have a 15-day window to submit applications to serve Havana and nine other Cuban cities with international airports. Charter flights, which have been the only way to fly to Cuba for decades, will continue.

Decisions on which airlines and which U.S. cities will have commercial service to Cuba are expected to be made by this summer and the first scheduled flights could begin by next fall, Brandon Belford, deputy assistant for aviation and international affairs at the Department of Transportation, said Friday.

The agreement, which was reached in December, allows a maximum of 20 daily flights daily to Havana and 10 daily flights to each of the other nine cities for a total of 110 daily flights.

Officials said it's possible that more airlines may want to fly to Havana than slots are available, while some of the other airports may be undersubscribed. If non-Havana markets are not as hotly contested, "we will likely be in a position to make those determinations and award those frequencies to U.S. carriers in a shorter time line, said Belford.

How many flights will ultimately serve Cuba "depends on market demand, said Thomas Engle, deputy assistant secretary of state for transportation affairs. Cuba also has international airports in Camaguey, Cayo Coco, Cayo Largo, Cienfuegos, Holguin, Manzanillo, Varadero, Santa Clara and Santiago de Cuba.

American travelers will still be prohibited from traveling to Cuba for tourism, but travel in 12 authorized categories, such as educational trips and people-to-people tours, is permitted.

American Airlines, which already leases more of its aircraft for Cuban charters than any other U.S. airline, is eager to begin service to Cuba.

"We look forward to establishing scheduled service to Cuba in 2016 from Miami and our other hubs, said Martha Pantin, an American spokeswoman. …

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