Now you can fly to Cuba In this Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016 photo passengers enter the charter departures terminal of the a Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, Cuba. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)
Now you can fly to Cuba

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The United States and Cuba have signed a deal restoring commercial air traffic for the first time in five decades, allowing of dozens of new daily flights to bring hundreds of thousands more American travelers a year to the island as early as this fall.
Immediately after the signing, the U.S. Department of Transportation opened bidding by American air carriers on as many as 110 U.S.-Cuba flights a day, more than five times the current number. All flights operating between the two countries today are charters.
Barring other major announcements, the restart of commercial flights will be the most significant development in U.S.-Cuba trade since Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro announced in late 2014 that they would begin normalizing ties after a half-century of Cold War opposition. The Obama administration is eager to make rapid progress on building trade and diplomatic ties with Cuba before the president leaves office. The coming weeks are seen as particularly crucial to building momentum ahead of a trip he hopes to make to Havana by the end of March.
"Today is a historic day in the relationship between Cuba and the U.S.," U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said after he and Transportation Minister Adel Yzquierdo Rodriguez signed the deal Feb. 16 in a ceremony at Havana's Hotel Nacional. "It represents a critically important milestone in the U.S. effort to engage with Cuba."
The U.S. Department of Transportation expects to award the new routes by the summer. The winning airlines then must negotiate their own deals with Cuba.
Yzquierdo declined an interview request but Foxx said after meeting with the Cuban minister that he believed Cuba was eager to restore commercial air service as quickly as possible.
"Every indication I have in the conversations we've had today is that the Cubans want to move as fast as we're able to move," Foxx said. "People will actually be able to go buy a ticket and fly to Cuba on a commercial airline. That's a pretty big step. We haven't been able to do that in 50 years."
The agreement allows 20 regular daily U.S. flights to Havana, in addition to the current 10-15 charter flights a day. The rest would be to other Cuban cities.
Nearly 160,000 U.S. leisure travelers flew to Cuba last year, along with hundreds of thousands of Cuban-Americans visiting family, mostly on expensive, frequently chaotic charter flights out of Florida.
Commercial flights make travel to Cuba far easier for U.S. travelers, with features such as online booking and 24-hour customer service that are largely absent in the charter industry.
U.S. visitors to Cuba will still have to qualify under one of the travel categories legally authorized by the U.S. government. Tourism is still barred by law, but the number of legal reasons to go to Cuba, from organizing professional meetings to distributing information to Cubans, has grown so large and loosely enforced that the distinction from tourism has blurred significantly.
Commercial travel will give travelers the ability to simply check an online box on a long list of authorized categories.
The deal does not contemplate flights by Cuba's national airline to the United States, where lawyers for families and businesses that have sued Havana over decades-old property confiscations are eager to freeze any of its assets that they can get their hands on.
American Airlines spokesman Matt Miller said the company plans to bid on routes from Miami and other unspecified "American hubs."
United Airlines is also looking to serve Havana from some of its hubs, spokesman Luke Punzenberger said. The carrier's major hubs include Chicago, Houston, Washington and Newark, New Jersey. It currently does not fly charters to Cuba.
JetBlue Airways said it was eager to offer service between "multiple" cities in the United States and the island, with spokesman Doug McGraw saying that "interest in Cuba has reached levels not seen for a generation."

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Why must airlines bid for the chance to fly to Cuba?
Write your answers in the comments section below

  • ShawnaWeiser-Ste
    2/22/2016 - 08:49 p.m.

    To be honest, I've never thought of flying to Cuba. I always dreamed of going to Europe but now that it is possible to actually fly to Cuba it seems like a cooler and less experienced trip.

  • matts-pla
    2/23/2016 - 11:44 a.m.

    It has been 50 years since it has been possible for Americans to travel back and forth from the US to Cuba on a commercial airline. It wont be until the end of March that this is possible. Although this is a big step for both countries. Compared to civic engagement the two governments will not be working together, and as citizens it is something to keep in mind and pay attention to what will happen in the coming months with increased travel of immigrants to america as well as Americans leaving and returning.

  • kendrah-pla
    2/23/2016 - 09:16 p.m.

    The re-opening of airlines to Cuba is the first major thing to be done since the two presidents decided to "normalize" relations. This is not only going to be a huge new vacation destination, but will substantially effect politics. Now that commercial airlines are open, over 110 and ten flights daily, former Cuban, who are now Americans, will have many questions to face. This development is huge and could pan out in a number of ways.

  • karih-pla
    3/02/2016 - 12:19 a.m.

    For the first time in about 50 years, commercial airlines will be able to schedule flights between the United States and Cuba. Upon the signing of a deal, up to 20 regular flights and 10-15 charter flights daily can be made from the United States to Havana. Although visitors from the United States to Cuba will have to qualify under travel regulations, this opens up the ability to visit Cuba with leisure.
    I think this deal between the United States and Cuba displays civic engagement in not only the community of Havana in Cuba, but also in the lives of U.S. citizens who wish to travel to Cuba. The citizens of Cuba have decided to open up to the United States and allow for U.S. citizens to travel to their communities, which ultimately shows that Cuba is making an effort to coexist with citizens of the U.S. I believe this effort will move both Cuba and the U.S. one step closer to creating stronger bonds between communities.

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