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U.S. To Resume Commercial Air Travel To Cuba

Cuban American Flags

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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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. Ron Beasley says:

    The United States has had it’s share of misguided and failed policies but the Cuban policy is the longest and biggest failure. That policy was driven primarily by the Miami Cuban Refugees. Most of that initial influx of refugees are old and either dead or dying. Many of the second generation Miami Cubans are in favor of normalization as are most of the third generation Miami Cubans many of whom are now Democrats.
    Rubio gave up his Senate seat in part because he is lazy and thought the Senate was too much work but more importantly he knew he couldn’t win reelection. The Republicans in congress are pandering to an increasingly smaller base so at some point sanity may prevail.

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  2. stonetools says:

    Thank you, President Barack Obama, for restoring sanity to this area of American foreign policy. The best “lame duck” President ever! The Obama legacy is looking better and better.

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  3. PJ says:

    Sanity? Have you seen Red Dawn? This is just like Red Dawn but the communists get to invade by scheduled commercial flights!

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  4. JKB says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    Let’s see a policy and laws enacted by the Democratic Party’s poster boy president and a Democratic Party controlled House and Senate. Then continued through Democrat and Republican presidencies and a Democratic Party controlled Congress, at least until 1994. Then, another Democratic Party poster boy president did nothing, as well as the follow-on Republican. But remember Republicans are not sympathetic to socialists and Communists like Democrats are. And finally a Democratic Party poster boy president alters the policy guidelines within the President’s authority but doesn’t bother to seek legislation that would repeal the laws that mandate the embargo?

    Yep, thank goodness, those younger Cubans in South Florida signed up with the Democrats.

    BTW, I happened to be in a Miami hotel when GW Bush came down for a meeting at the convention center with Florida Cubans on some easing of policies with Cuba he was considering. All, I saw in the bar afterward were Cuban-Americans in their 30s and 40s, they were all pissed at the idea of easing sanctions. But it’s 10 yrs later now. We’ll see how this plays in the Florida electoral college.

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  5. gVOR08 says:

    Eventually, hopefully, Congress will realize this.

    Not as long we have a GOP congress that would cheerfully burn the whole country to the waterline for what they see as their political advantage.

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  6. george says:


    But remember Republicans are not sympathetic to socialists and Communists like Democrats are.

    And yet they allowed and maintained full diplomatic relations with the USSR, allowed American companies to trade with the USSR, and Americans to travel there.

    What I’ve never understood is if you’re not sympathetic to socialists and communists, how in the world could you be more open to dealing commercially and diplomatically with the biggest Communist dog in the world (the USSR) than to its tiny brother (Cuba). It’d be far more consistent to have cut diplomatic and commercial ties to the USSR than to Cuba (especially since the USSR basically ran Cuba).

    The only explanation that ever made any sense at all was because of Florida votes – pretending it was about Communism is made ridiculous by noting all the diplomatic and commercial dealing with Soviet Russia.

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  7. Tyrell says:

    I’m wondering how the prices in Cuba compare to the US, like for a week stay at a beach front condo. If they build a nice theme park, count me in. Hopefully McDonalds and Taco Bell will be going in.

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  8. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @PJ: Really? That was the best you could come up with? A live-action Saturday Morning cartoon from almost 30 years ago? Really?

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  9. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Tyrell: I assume that you’ve never eaten any actual Latin American food. You should try some; you might never go back to Taco Bell again. (Or at least you would understand why tourists to Cuba might not need to go to Taco Bell in Havana.)

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  10. Tyrell says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker: Thanks for the reply. I am sure that the food in Cuba is different from what is offered in the US Latin American and southwest style restaurants and fast food places. Same goes for our pizzas, Chinese, and Japanese restaurants. I am sure that there will be some great seafood down there.

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  11. PJ says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker:
    A “live-action Saturday Morning cartoon”?
    No, it’s a document showing that some people are actually able to see the future. Not clearly, which is why they invaded in a more conventional way in the movie.

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  12. bloated sack of protoplasm says:

    February is Black History Month.

    The first lesson a revolutionary must learn is that he is a doomed man.
    Huey P. Newton

    Apparently Fidel never got the memo.

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  13. Perla Reuhl says:

    Awesome knowledge listed here, thanks a ton for putting up. I don’t realize I brought within this web page literally but currently I am delighted with what I’ve known

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