Cuba, US to re-establish regular commercial flights

Havana, Feb 17 (IANS/EFE) The Cuban and US 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.

“Today is a historic day in the relationship between Cuba and the US,” said US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in Havana. “It represents a critically important milestone in the US effort to engage with Cuba.”

Also signing the agreement were Cuban Transportation Minister Adel Yzquierdo, US Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs, Charles Rivkin, and the president of the Cuban Civil Aeronautics Institute, Alfredo Cordero.

Foxx said that the resumption of commercial flights is another step in fulfilling the commitment to “continue strengthening” the ties between the two countries, while Yzquierdo agreed that the accord marks the start of a new phase in US-Cuban relations.

Yzquierdo said that thanks to the memorandum the airlines of both nations will also be able to make commercial cooperation agreements, including shared rules and regulations and aircraft leasing contracts.

US 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 US 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 US airlines presenting their bids to the Department of Transportation for the routes they want to secure.

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