The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today announced a historic deal reestablishing direct commercial airline service between the United States and Cuba. The agreement will allow 20 flights a day between the U.S. and Havana, and ten flights each to the rest of Cuba's nine other international airports. That's a total of 110 flights a day, which includes passenger and cargo flights.
The only question now is where in America those flights will originate. That's yet to be determined.
The DOT announced that American carriers will be able to submit bids to operate the flights. Applications are due by March 2, and the selections will be decided later that month. Final plans will likely be announced over the summer.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, American Airlines will include service from Miami International Airport (MIA) as part of its application. American Airlines is the biggest tenant at MIA and uses the airport as its main hub for flights to Latin America. Other airlines haven't clarified their plans, but American would be the most likely candidate to operate flights between Miami and Cuba anyway.
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Potentially complicating the plans is the number of Cuban exiles who believe they are owed compensation for property seized by the Cuban government. The New York Times particularly highlighted the case of José Ramón López, whose father owned Cubana de Aviación before it was nationalized by the Castro regime. López believes he has a claim to ownership of José Martí International Airport in Havana as well.
For that reason, Cuban-owned planes are not expected to begin flights to America. The Times reports that the Obama administration was clear in its negotiations with Cuba that the island nation couldn't stop Cuban-owned planes from being seized if they were to land on American soil.
It's unclear when exactly the flights will begin, but the Associated Press reports they could begin operating as soon as this fall. Only those who have prior authorization to travel to Cuba from the U.S. Department of the Treasury will be allowed to fly. The agreement does not affect charter flights between the two countries.