U.S. To Resume Commercial Air Travel To Cuba
Early next week, the United States and Cuba will take another step toward normalizing relations:
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Tuesday plans to complete an agreement with Cuba that will allow scheduled commercial flights to resume this year between the United States and the island nation for the first time in more than 50 years.
The agreement, based on an understanding reached in December between the two governments, will allow American air carriers to offer 20 flights per day to Havana and 10 to each of the nine other Cuban cities with international airports. That is a substantial increase from the 10 to 15 charter flights currently available between the United States and Cuba.
Anthony Foxx, the transportation secretary, and Charles H. Rivkin, the top State Department official for business and economics, will travel to Havana on Tuesday to sign the pact. The agreement represents the latest progress in President Obama’s push to end decades of Cold War estrangement and begin to normalize relations between the two countries.
For the time being, air travel between the U.S. and Cuba is expected to be limited to American carriers in no small part because Cuban airlines would be required to obtain licenses from the Federal Aviation Administration, comply with American safety laws, and, more importantly, could be subject to seizure pursuant to court orders based on judgments obtained against the government of Cuba by refugees who have made claims about property seized by the Castro government. Additionally, travel to Cuba is still limited to the categories that were put in place when President Obama lifted parts of the embargo against Cuba in December 2014. That travel is far from the kind of unlimited tourism that Americans are free to take to virtually any other nation on the planet, though, because the main parts of the economic embargo impose some fifty years ago are covered by legislation and can only be lifted by Congress. So far, Republicans in Congress, who continue to pander, to a small segment of the Cuban-American community in Florida, there’s no sign that Congress is inclined to act notwithstanding the fact that there is no rational basis to continue the travel ban or any other aspect of the embargo at this point.
This is just the latest development to flow from the President’s December 2014 announcement. Last year, the United States and Cuba reopened embassies in Washington and Havana for the first time since John F Kennedy was President. Even with the State Department restrictions in place, travel by Americans to Cuba has undergone something of a boom over the past year, something that it is only likely to increase with the resumption of direct flights between the United States and Cuba. And, most recently, American businesses such as AirBnb and others have taken advantage of the changes in the relationship between the two nations to establish business ties with Cubans that are benefiting individual Cubans. Lifting the rest of the embargo would make trade and development between America and Cuba far easier, and, ultimately, would work to the benefit of both Cuba and America. Eventually, hopefully, Congress will realize this.
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