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Obama administration approves 6 airlines for flights to Cuba

American Airlines Wants To Fly To Cuba

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker talks about the carrier's plans to fly to Cuba, pending government approval. (Video courtesy of American Airlines) March 2, 2016.
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American Airlines CEO Doug Parker talks about the carrier's plans to fly to Cuba, pending government approval. (Video courtesy of American Airlines) March 2, 2016.

The Department of Transportation announced Friday that six airlines have been approved to begin offering flights to Cuba this fall.

“Last year, President [Barack] Obama announced that it was time to ‘begin a new journey’ with the Cuban people,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said. “Today, we are delivering on his promise by re-launching scheduled air service to Cuba after more than half a century.”

American Airlines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Silver Airways, Southwest Airlines and Sun Country Airlines have been awarded routes.

The six domestic airlines will operate service from Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Minneapolis/St. Paul to cities other than Havana. The Department of Transportation has not yet announced the airlines and U.S. cities that will be able to fly to the capital city, which will be able to accept 20 daily round-trip flights.

The flights are possible following the announcement in late 2014 that the U.S. and Cuba would reestablish ties after nearly 50 years of isolationist policy. The two countries formally opened embassies in Washington and Havana last summer and have worked to expand cooperation in a number of areas, including aviation. Under an agreement, the Department of Transportation can approve a total of 90 daily round-trip passenger and all-cargo flights between U.S. cities and nine Cuban international airports outside Havana. U.S. carriers can operate up to 10 daily round-trips to each airport.

Tourists are still not allowed to travel to Cuba, but the Obama administration has expanded the classes of travelers allowed to visit the island. Journalists, academics, students, volunteers, U.S. government officials traveling on official business and public performers will be able to legally visit the island. Family reunion trips will also be allowed.

The U.S. trade embargo on Cuba remains in place.

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