U.S. Restores Regular Commercial Flights to Cuba After 55 Years
The relationship between Cuba and the United States continued its slow march toward normalcy Tuesday morning when the U.S. Transportation Department announced that as many as 110 daily commercial flights will be allowed to travel between the two countries. But don't get your Havana-bound spring break hopes too high yet; the 55-year-old embargo against Cuba still stands, so American tourists would have to qualify for one of the 12 categories of authorized travel (I'd try for "(5) educational activities," which, when broadly defined, might include drinking rum on the beach).
Even so, the deal, which was signed today in Havana, represents a huge leap forward in the thawing relationship between the former Cold War enemies. Twenty flights from the United States will be allowed into Havana each day, and another 10 will have access to other Cuban cities.
“Remember that the current level [of commercial flights] is zero," U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Transportation Affairs Thomas Engle said, according the the AFP.
So far, Southwest, United, American, Delta, JetBlue, and Spirit Airlines have expressed interest in bidding for the routes, which should be finalized by this fall.
If that wasn't enough U.S.-Cuba news for you, Reuters is reporting that an Alabama-based tractor company could soon become the first American company to manufacture and sell their goods in Cuba since Fidel Castro took over the country in 1959. The company's co-owners, Horace Clemmons and Cuban-born Saul Berenthal, reportedly received word about the decision from the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control sometime last week. Clemmons told Reuters that the target market for their tractor—which will be named "Oggun" in honor of the iron god in the Afro-Cuban religion Santeria—will be Cuban farmers looking to modernize their operations.