Havana: Cuba and the United States reached an agreement on Wednesday night that will allow U.S. commercial airlines to begin operating flights to the island for the first time in decades, according to U.S. officials with knowledge of the discussion.
The understanding comes on the eve of the first anniversary of the announcement that the two countries would restore diplomatic ties and turn the page on a half-century of animosity, reported the Washington Post.
The agreement will allow carriers such as United Airlines, American Airlines and JetBlue to fly to Cuba, and is a significant breakthrough that should greatly simplify travel between the countries.
The agreement was reached in Washington. A U.S. official with knowledge of the talks said that negotiators from both countries were still working out technical details. But the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because there had not yet been an official announcement, said the basic outlines of the accord were in place.
The deal does not mean that Americans will be able to begin booking travel to Cuba immediately. But it would set in motion the safety inspections and other procedures required by the Federal Aviation Administration when such an agreement is reached. Experts say it will probably be three to six months before U.S. carriers can begin selling tickets to Cuba.
Until then, air service between the two countries will continue via the existing system of charter flights. Those flights typically charge $500 round-trip for the 45-minute flight between Miami and Havana. Travelers are required to check in three or four hours in advance, pay exorbitant baggage fees and endure various inconveniences.