U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Foxx, shakes hands with Cuba's Transport Minister Adel Rodriguez after signing an arrangement, in Havana, Feb. 16, 2016.
Photo by Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters

US and Cuba to sign pact to restore commercial flights

Top U.S. officials will travel to Havana on Tuesday to sign an aviation pact that restores scheduled airline service between the United States and Cuba for the first time in more than 50 years, the U.S. Transportation Department said.

The signing brings into effect an arrangement the Cold War foes agreed to in December. U.S. airlines still must apply for permission from U.S. regulators to fly specific routes before they sell tickets to Cuba.

While charter flights already connect the countries, the accord is expected to increase tourism and business on the communist-ruled island.

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U.S. airlines will have 15 days starting Tuesday to submit route applications to the U.S. Transportation Department, its Deputy Assistant Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs Brandon Belford told reporters.

He said the U.S. agency will spend about a month collecting information from the airlines and others interested parties to help assess the applications, and it expects to decide in the summer which airlines are flying from which cities to Havana.

The arrangement allows only 20 round-trip flights per day between the United States and Havana. The arrangement also allows 10 daily round-trips to nine other international airports in Cuba.

Airlines, Cuba and Diplomacy

US and Cuba to sign pact to restore commercial flights