United States, Cuba sign arrangement restoring scheduled air service

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HAVANA – U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Charles Rivkin, Cuban Minister of Transportation Adel Yzquierdo Rodriguez and President of the Cuban Civil Aviation Institute (IACC), Ministry of Transportation Colonel Alfredo Cordero Puig signed an arrangement that provides for the re-establishment of scheduled air services between the United States and Cuba. Immediately following the signing, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) invited U.S. air carriers to apply for an allocation of the new opportunities to provide scheduled passenger and cargo flights.  

“We are excited to announce the availability of new scheduled air service opportunities to Cuba for U.S. carriers, shippers, and the traveling public, and we will conduct this proceeding in a manner designed to maximize public benefits,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

In 2014, the Obama Administration announced its intention to re-establish diplomatic relations and embark on a process of normalization with Cuba. Less than one year later, in December 2015, after several months of negotiations, the governments of the United States and Cuba concluded negotiations on a non-legally binding arrangement to re-establish scheduled air services between the two countries. This new arrangement will facilitate visits for travelers that fall under one of 12 categories authorized by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. It also  represents a major step forward in President Obama’s policy of engagement with Cuba. There have been no scheduled flights between the United States and Cuba for over half a century.

The new arrangement provides each country with the opportunity to operate up to 20 daily roundtrip flights between the United States and Havana. The arrangement also provides each country with the opportunity to operate up to 10 daily roundtrip flights between the United States and each of Cuba’s nine other international airports, providing U.S. carriers with the opportunity to operate up to a total of 110 daily roundtrip flights between the United States and Cuba.  The arrangement does not limit charter services, meaning that no DOT allocation procedures are needed and charter flights can continue as before.

Today’s order invites applications from U.S. carriers and initiates a proceeding for DOT to select which U.S. carriers will be able to offer scheduled flights to Cuba, and from which U.S. points. In making its selection, the Department will consider which proposals will offer and maintain the best service to the traveling and shipping public. The Department recognizes the eagerness of U.S. carriers to take advantage of these new Cuba opportunities, and intends to reach a final decision as expeditiously as possible.

DOT’s order states that applications are due March 2, 2016; answers to applications are due March 14, 2016; and replies to those answers are due March 21, 2016.  Interested parties can track the progress of the case and view the publicly available documents at www.regulations.gov, docket DOT-OST-2016-0021.

ASTA Statement on Restoration of Scheduled Flight Service to Cuba
American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) President and CEO Zane Kerby issues this statement regarding the U.S. Department of Transportation’s announcement of an agreement between the United States and Cuba restoring scheduled air service between the two countries:

“ASTA congratulates DOT and its Cuban counterparts on reaching this agreement, which will increase air service to Cuba five-fold and will mean more and more affordable transportation options for Americans wishing to undertake authorized travel to Cuba. Resuming commercial air travel will benefit American consumers and the ASTA travel agents who serve them.

“ASTA and its members have long believed that Americans ought to be allowed to travel across the globe without restriction, allowing them to act as ambassadors of freedom and American values abroad. We estimate at least two million additional Americans could visit Cuba by 2018 if Congress were to lift the travel ban before the end of this year. While U.S. law still prohibits travel to Cuba for tourist activities, we are encouraged by the continued progress made by the Obama Administration, and we strongly urge Congress to enact the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act and fully repeal the travel ban once and for all.”

National Tour Association Commends Restored Air Service to Cuba
The National Tour Association commends the U.S. Department of Transportation for its signing of an arrangement with Cuba to formally restore air service between the countries, an important step forward for U.S. and Cuba relations that will greatly benefit Americans and Cubans alike.

NTA has been a leading voice during ongoing attempts to restore normal travel operations with Cuba and is proud to have stood firm in supporting the freedom to travel. Tuesday’s announcement by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to provide for the re-establishment of scheduled air services between the United States and Cuba is a considerable accomplishment for citizens and stakeholders from both countries.

Immediately following the signing, DOT invited U.S. air carriers to apply for an allocation of the new opportunities to provide scheduled passenger and cargo flights. The agreement allows for up to 20 roundtrip flights between the United States and Havana, and 10 roundtrip flights at each of Cuba’s other airports, for a total of 110 daily roundtrip flights between the countries.

Tuesday’s actions coincide with the decision by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to initiate a rule change regarding flights to and from Cuba. CBP will seek to repeal Cuba-related regulations that have been deemed redundant with current regulations. Once the regulations are repealed, flights to and from Cuba would be subject to the same legal requirements as other international flights.

NTA has consistently stated that normalized relations with Cuba would benefit the U.S economy and be a boon for the travel and tourism sector. Increased economic activity between the United States and Cuba will have a significantly positive impact on U.S. travel and tourism, the nation’s largest service export. According to data from the Department of Commerce, the industry generates upwards of $2.1 trillion in economic output, supports 14.9 million jobs and represents $134 million in tax revenue. On average, travelers to the U.S. spend $2.4 billion a day, $101.4 million an hour, $1.7 million a minute and $28,154 a second.

Photo caption: U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx (left) and Cuban Minister of Transportation Adel Yzquierdo Rodriguez sign the arrangement that provides for the re-establishment of scheduled air services between the United States and Cuba (AP).

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