Shortly after the signing the deal to raise restictions on air travel between the two countries, the DOT (aka Department of Transportation) opened bidding to American air carriers on 110 U.S. to Cuba flights per day. Nearly five times the number of flights currently offered, which to date have all been charters.
The (re)start of commercial flights is a monumental development in U.S.- Cuban relations marked by the December 2014 announcement made by President Barack Obama and Raul Castro. It would appear that the Obama administration is eager to make quick progress on rebuilding trade and diplomatic ties prior to the end of the President's final term in office. The coming weeks are particularly crucial to building momentum ahead of a trip he hopes to make to Havana before the end of March.
"Today is a historic day in the relationship between Cuba and the U.S.," U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, during the siging of the agreement with Cuban Transportation Minister Adel Yzquierdo Rodriguez in Havana's historic Hotel Nacional. "It represents a critically important milestone in the U.S. effort to engage with Cuba" Foxx stated.
The DOT expects to award the new routes by mid 2016/ any airline that wins a bid on a route must negotiate their own deals with Cuba.
Over 150,000 U.S. travelers flew to Cuba in 2015 along with many Cuban-American families. These flights are often chaotic and crowded chartered flights with poor service and zero amenities. Recent normalization would rapidly pull Cuba into the modern era, with 24 hour service and online bookings.
JetBlue, American Airlines and United Airlines have already commented that they plan to bid on routes to Havana from "multiple hubs" throughout the U.S.
Read the full ABC News article here.
Photo by ABC News.