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Miami to be Major Gateway for U.S.- Cuba Commercial Flights

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Miami has been eyed as the first major gateway for commercial flights between Cuba and the US. Aviation officials from both countries are still working on the specifics, but regular air travel service is expected to commence no later than June 2016.

The US Department of Transportation will soon announce how airline companies can apply for Cuban routes. If everything goes according to plan, Havana will receive 20 US flights per day, while another 10 air routes will be opened in nine Cuban cities, MiamiHerald reported.

“We still believe we’ll be flying scheduled service to Cuba within the first half of 2016,” said American Airlines executive Howard Kass. “We’re optimistic that DOT will move swiftly to permit U.S. carriers to offer scheduled service.”

With only 230 miles of water separating the two of them, Miami is the nearest US city to Havana. But for the last five decades, crossing the Florida Strait has been anything but standard operating procedure. Commercial flights to Cuba were generally banned, and only expensive charter flights were allowed.

CBSNews pointed out that President Obama has recently asked Congress to lift the Cuban embargo. Obama’s plea comes two year after he moved to restore diplomatic ties with the Communist-ruled nation. Even though the embargo is still in effect, Obama’s fervent meetings with Raul Castro have led to the loosening of travel restrictions between both countries.

When the current aviation agreement is enacted, tourists will no longer spend $500 to $700 for one hour’s worth of charter air travel. Instead, they will likely pay a fraction of those prices, while having the freedom to choose what flight schedule suits them best.

Back in May 2015, the Obama administration granted several American companies the license to resume ferry travel between Florida and Cuba. But due to the ongoing embargo, only Americans with special travel permits can go to Cuba, as per BBCNews.

Meanwhile, Havana has been preparing for the onslaught of American tourists scheduled to arrive later this year. The upcoming demand for Cuban goods and delicacies has forced the city to stack up on supplies.

Janet Moore, a travel operator in Cuba, admitted that Havana still doesn’t have enough hotel rooms and tourist guides to accommodate the inevitable pouring of American visitors.

“If you came to me and said, ‘Janet, I need a hotel room tonight.’ I’d have to say, ‘I cannot get you one’,” she said. “There is not a hotel room to be had tonight in this city.”

Other US cities that will eventually offer commercial flights to Cuba are Los Angeles, New York and Chicago.

 

Source: LatinOne by Arvin Matthew Paculaba

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