U.S., Cuba reach understanding on restoring commercial flights

HAVANA -- The United States and Cuba have reached an understanding on restoring regularly scheduled commercial flights, Cuban and American officials said Wednesday on the eve of the anniversary of detente between the Cold War foes.

See Full Article

The diplomatic advance helps open the way for U.S. airlines to begin flying to Cuba within months in what would be the biggest business deal struck as the two countries try to normalize relations. Officials on both sides described it as an understanding on aviation but not yet a formal agreement and they hoped to reach a formal deal within hours or days.

Teams who have been meeting since Monday in Washington "have made important advances in negotiating a memorandum of understanding on establishing regular flights between Cuba and the United States, and shortly they will be ready to announce a preliminary agreement on this issue," said Josefina Vidal, head of North American affairs for Cuba's foreign ministry.

Right now, American and Cuban travellers must fly on charter flights that are complicated to book, rarely involve an online portal and often force prospective travellers to email documents and payment information back and forth with an agent. Those flying sometimes must arrive at the airport four hours in advance and strict baggage limits apply.

U.S. officials and aviation executives have speculated that Cuba could allow more than a dozen flights from the U.S. a day. It's unclear if those flights would completely replace charters, but they appear certain to create a surge in travel that would place heavy strain on Cuba's already overstrained tourist infrastructure. Hotels and private hostals are booked for months.

Authorized American travel to the island is up 50 per cent this year, Jeffrey DeLaurentis, who heads the U.S. Embassy in Havana, said Tuesday. While the majority of U.S. travellers are Cuban-Americans, there has been a sharp rise in Americans travelling for specially authorized purposes, particularly on educational tours known as people-to-people travel. Among Obama's regulatory changes this year was one permitting such travel to Cuba without specific Treasury Department permission.

Since the announcement last year that the U.S. would establish diplomatic relations and expand trade and tourism with Cuba, major U.S. airlines, including American, Delta, United, JetBlue and Southwest, have expressed interest in establishing regular flights from the U.S. to the island.

Cuba and the U.S. announced last week direct mail service would restart after a 52-year interruption. The governments had been speaking about restoring a postal link since Obama entered office, but those talks stalled when Cuba imprisoned U.S. contractor Alan Gross. He was freed in a prisoner exchange that sparked last year's declaration of detente.

On other issues, however, the U.S. and Cuba remain far apart. These include the billions of dollars in competing property claims, the status of fugitives in both countries, and Cuban protection of human rights.

The U.S. and Cuba re-opened embassies in each other's capitals this summer.

Thursday marks the one-year anniversary of the announcement by Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro that they were ending a half-century of U.S.-Cuban enmity.



Advertisements

Latest Economic News

  • Asian shares muted as investors await raft of economic data

    Economic CTV News
    TORONTO -- Canada's main stock index was little changed in late-morning trading as U.S. stock markets took the day off for the Memorial Day holiday. The S&P/TSX composite index was up 1.59 points to 15,418.52, after 90 minutes of trading. Source
  • CN Rail may face strike as early as Tuesday morning

    Economic CBC News
    The union for more than 3,000 Canadian National Railway conductors says it may go on strike as early as Tuesday morning. Last week, the Teamsters union announced its members had voted 98 per cent in favour of a strike mandate. Source
  • Husky Oil to proceed with West White Rose project off Newfoundland

    Economic CTV News
    ST. JOHN'S, N.L. -- The Newfoundland and Labrador government was exultant Monday as Husky Energy announced it will finally proceed with the multimillion-dollar West White Rose project, with first oil five years away. The company said it will use a fixed wellhead platform tied to the SeaRose floating production, storage and offloading vessel, known as an FPSO. Source
  • West White Rose project in N.L. offshore moving ahead

    Economic CBC News
    Husky Energy is moving forward with its West White Rose project, the company announced Monday. The company also says it has made a new oil discovery at the Northwest White Rose production area, which has improved the life of the field since its discovery in 1984. Source
  • A double win for Husky: company sanctions West White Rose and announces new discovery

    Economic CBC News
    Husky Energy is moving forward with its West White Rose project, the company announced Monday. The company also says it has made a new oil discovery at the Northwest White Rose production area, which has improved the life of the field since its discovery in 1984. Source
  • Back to work bill expected today in Quebec construction strike

    Economic CTV News
    MONTREAL -- The Quebec government is expected to bring in back-to-work legislation today to put an end to a strike by tens of thousands of construction workers. Premier Philippe Couillard said last week that he would set the wheels in motion to legislate an end to the strike if the picket lines didn't come down by today. Source
  • Quebec construction workers protest as government set to table back-to-work bill

    Economic CTV News
    MONTREAL -- Hundreds of striking construction workers protested outside Quebec's legislature on Monday, as the government prepared back-to-work legislation scheduled to be tabled later in the day. Protest organizers said thousands of workers were expected to arrive in Quebec City for the protest by Monday evening to express their frustration at failed contract negotiations. Source
  • Negotiations ongoing between CN and conductors union

    Economic CTV News
    MONTREAL -- The union representing approximately 3,000 CN Rail employees is still in negotiations with the company's management after threatening job action. The Teamsters union says the company plans to make changes to the current collective agreement that would "permanently and irreparably impact workers," although a union official wouldn't specify the subject of the negotiations. Source
  • Pay down your mortgage faster or invest money seeking better returns

    Economic CTV News
    TORONTO -- Juan Pablo de Dovitiis finds himself grappling with the perennial personal finance chestnut of whether he's better off paying down his mortgage faster or investing instead. With mortgage rates sitting near record lows, the 40-year-old Torontonian figures the return on his invested dollar should exceed the guaranteed savings from making additional payments on his home. Source
  • British Airways travellers face third day of delays, cancellations

    Economic CTV News
    LONDON -- Travellers with airlines in the British Airways group faced a third day of delays and cancellations, mainly on short-haul routes and in smaller numbers than over the weekend, when the company suffered a colossal IT failure. Source