A year after announcing the process of restoration of diplomatic relations between The United States of America and Cuba, the two governments came to an agreement on Thursday to restore commercial flights between the two countries.
The deal was achieved in Washington, after three days of negotiations between the State Department’s deputy assistant secretary for transportation affairs, Thomas Engle, on the U.S. side and Ambassador Yuri Gala Lopez from Cuba.
The agreement must provide 30 regular airline flights a day, allowing a surge of American travel to Cuba that could eventually flood the country with hundreds of thousands of U.S. visitors a year.
The United States airlines, who are interested, must negotiate with the Cuban authorities to incorporate the routes. Until now, it will only be allowed to fly from one country to another through charter or from third countries.
Although it is likely to take some time before the start of commercial flights to Havana, the restoration of regular flights to Cuba after half a century would be the major business development since the two countries started to normalize their relations last year.
However, U.S. law still forbids Americans to travel to the island for tourism. American visits are authorized in 12 categories, such as cultural exchanges, humanitarian, or for “people-to-people” trips that encourage communication between the U.S. and Cuban citizens.
“This arrangement will continue to allow charter operations and establish scheduled air service, which will facilitate an increase in authorized travel, enhance traveler choices and promote people-to-people links between the two countries,” The U.S. announcement stated, according to CNN.
Thirty more flights a day would more than double current U.S. air traffic to Cuba but it may take years to reach that number. U.S. travel to Cuba has risen by more than 50 percent this year alongside, overwhelming the Caribbean country’s outmoded tourist infrastructure.
Havana’s international airport doesn’t have the capacity to cover the current demand of flights to the city and almost every hotel is fully booked for next year. So the Cuban authorities will enable the new flights from the United States in a slowly way, in order to ensure that the government can manage the increased travel.
The United States and Cuba governments publicly said they are pleased with the state of diplomatic relations, after, in December 17, 2014, they announced the beginning of a process to normalize the bilateral relations that ended last July, in reopening the respective embassies in Havana and Washington after more than half a century of enmity.
Last week, the two countries took a further step towards full normalization with the announcement of an agreement to re-establish direct mail service through a transportation pilot program; signed two deals on environmental protection; and launched talks on issues from human rights to compensation for U.S. properties confiscated by Cuba’s revolution.
According to Washington Post, Obama said in a statement that both governments are moving forward on common interests, working on complex issues that for a long time have divided them.
However, there are still complex issues to solve as mutual economic rewards and important differences between the two countries on subjects such as immigration and human rights.
As for the economic embargo on the island, although Obama has taken executive measures to make flexible the travel and some commercial transactions, the complete lifting depends on the U.S. Congress, now controlled entirely by Republicans, who overwhelmingly oppose the disposal.
Source: Washington Post