The United States and Cuba have paved the way for the resumption of commercial flight between the two countries following the signing of an agreement on Tuesday morning.
The historic signing ceremony in Havana’s Hotel Nacional brings to an end the five decade old embargo. U.S. carriers are expected to begin dozens of new daily flights to Cuba by next fall.
Signing for the U.S. was Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and his Cuban counterpart Adel Yzquierdo Rodriguez, Minister of Transportation.
“Today is a historic day in the relationship between Cuba and the U.S.,” said Foxx. “It represents a critically important milestone in the U.S. effort to engage with Cuba.”
Under the agreement, 20 regular daily U.S. flights to Havana will be allowed, with the rest being to other cities throughout Cuba.
“The adoption of this memorandum is an important step that will soon permit the establishment of regular flights between the United States and Cub” said Yzquierdo Rodriguez.
Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro in 2014 signaled their intentions to normalize relations between the two countries after a half-century of Cold War opposition. Technical talks on civil aviation began in Havana in 2015.
Reports in the press say nearly 160,000 U.S. leisure travelers flew to Cuba last year, together with hundreds of thousands of Cuban-Americans visiting family on charter flights out of Florida.
A number of U.S. carriers including American Airlines, United Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Spirit Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines plan to bid on routes to Cuba.