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 that restores commercial air traffic between the countries for the first time in five decades. It will allow dozens of daily flights.  They will 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. It is 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. This was after a half-century of opposition. The Obama administration is eager to make rapid progress on building trade and diplomatic ties with Cuba. The goal is to do it 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 Cuban Transportation Minister Adel Yzquierdo Rodriguez signed the deal Feb. 16.  They met 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. They will be 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. That number does not include the hundreds of thousands of Cuban-Americans visiting family, mostly on expensive charter flights out of Florida.
 
Commercial flights will make travel to Cuba far easier for U.S. travelers. The new flights would include features such as online booking and 24-hour customer service.  Those features largely are not available 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 large and is loosely enforced.  Today, 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. In the U.S., lawyers for families and businesses have sued Havana over decades-old property confiscations. They are eager to freeze any Cuban 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. JetBlue spokesman Doug McGraw said, "interest in Cuba has reached levels not seen for a generation."

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


COMMENTS (42)
  • mattb-ver
    2/23/2016 - 03:36 p.m.


    I think its just for now until its a natural thing then they will let more airlines fly to Cuba.

  • kalif-hol
    2/23/2016 - 06:11 p.m.

    I think it is good that we are now opening flight to Cuba. Because for family members to be visited by each other.

  • jacks-6-bar
    2/25/2016 - 07:07 p.m.

    Airlines must bid for the chance to fly to Cuba because it is already hard to board a plane to the country, and that it captures much interest. The article states: "The agreement allows 20 regular daily U.S. flights to Havana." The number of flights flying to the country is obviously minimal. In other major destinations, flights can reach significantly over that tiny amount. If the numerous airlines of the world want to participate in the transporting of passengers to Cuba, they'd need to bid to get that chance. Bidding is required because, since so many airlines are wanting to fly to Cuba (being a newly opened travel destination), and only a select few per day can fly there, there would definitely need to be some sort of fair, selection process to decide those select airlines out of all other airlines who get to fly to Cuba. Bidding is just that, a valid selection process for this type of situation. The airlines who win the bids over the others have priveledges to fly there. They'd need to bid to find out who would be going to Cuba.
    Also, airlines must bid because the public interest of the country is quite high. In the article, JetBlue spokesman Doug McGraw states:"interest in Cuba has reached levels not seen for a generation." Obviously, if people are interested in the new flight destination, many would want to go and fly there. With so little flights being able to fly to Cuba, and so many customers waiting for a chance to climb on board of one, it is a perfect way for airlines to reel in money. With such an opportunity, airlines have to bid on who can go because flying passengers there will supply them with growth money-wise; a truly tempting and rewarding component. Bidding is required so there is a fair process to decide who will get priveledges of flight to Cuba, therefore making incredible amounts of money.
    The article interested me; I didn't know how long the U.S. was restrained from Cuba (about for 50 years, according to the article). I can't believe, after all this time, we were only able to establish commercial flights.

  • ericw-6-bar
    2/26/2016 - 12:22 a.m.

    Selling flights to a country that has not been available for visitors for over 50 years can be quite profitable. Now Cuba is available for trade, vacations, and for a place to live.

  • noahf-3-bar
    2/26/2016 - 01:28 a.m.

    I think that airlines must bid for the chance to fly to Cuba is possibly due to the fact that tourism is still illegal in Cuba, and the possible expenses to allow airlines to fly into Cuba.

    I found this article interesting because I knew very little about Cuban tourism until I read this article.

  • ziont-orv-orv
    2/27/2016 - 05:33 p.m.

    Imagine flying to Cuba or the U.S just to find out you can't go back to your home country. It's good that it has returned.

  • taylorh.-tay
    2/29/2016 - 09:39 a.m.

    I have never heard of the US and Cuba doing business and it seems kind of weird but I would love to go to Cuba.

  • masons.-tay
    2/29/2016 - 09:40 a.m.

    Because they don't need all of the airlines trying to board to Cuba but if they did get the chance to go to and from Cuba that would rake in some cash.

  • evakathrynj.1-tay
    2/29/2016 - 09:40 a.m.

    110 U.S. to Canada flights a day was the opening bid. That's a lot.

  • tatumh.-tay
    2/29/2016 - 09:48 a.m.

    Airlines must bid forThe chance to fly to Cuba because it will make far much more money and other contries must want to fly there too.

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