US, Cuba reach agreement on restoring commercial flights

Unclear when first commercial flights will take off

MIAMI – The United States and Cuba have reached an understanding on restoring regularly scheduled commercial flights.

U.S. and Cuban officials said the aviation deal was reached Wednesday in Washington, a day before the anniversary of the declaration of detente between the former Cold War foes.

The deal paves the way for negotiations between the Cuban government and U.S. airlines that could take months, and it's not clear when the first flights will take off. The three officials weren't authorized to speak publicly and demanded anonymity.

"As far as being able to travel back to the island, I think it's good," Cuban American Roberto Valls told Local 10 News.

American and Cuban travelers now must fly on charter flights that are complicated to book, rarely involve an online portal and often force prospective travelers to email documents and payment information back and forth with an agent.

"I don't have any plans to go in the near future, but some people will be happy, you know, that that can be done," Valls said.

American Airlines has offered charter flights to Cuba since 1991, with flights from Miami, Tamp and Los Angeles to Camaguey, Cienfuegos, Havana, Holguin and Santa Clara.

"Today's announcement is great news for our customers as it brings us one step closer to connecting the U.S. and Cuba with scheduled air service," said American's chairman and CEO Doug Parker. "As the leading carrier to the Caribbean and the leading U.S. airline to Cuba, we look forward to establishing scheduled service to Cuba in 2016, from Miami and other American hubs. We appreciate the Administration's efforts and the hard work of the U.S. negotiators to reach this arrangement."

American Airlines' website lists the current requirements for reasons to travel to Cuba, including:

American Airlines charter service to Cuba was up 9 percent since 2014.

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