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U.S.-Cuba Officials To Sign Commercial Air Traffic Deal


For the first time in decades, passengers will soon be able to catch a commercial flight from the U.S. to Cuba. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is in Havana this morning to sign a deal to get those planes in the air. NPR's David Shaper reports.

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: Decades of Cold War policies made Cuba one destination that's off-limits to U.S. commercial airlines. Only about a dozen daily charter flights are allowed. But that's about to change.

THOMAS ENGLE: This provides for a very important sizable increase in travel between the two countries.

SCHAPER: Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Engle says the agreement being signed today will allow up to 110 commercial airline flights a day from the U.S. into Havana and nine other Cuban cities.

ENGLE: Expanding travel between the two countries is a key element of the president's broader policy of normalizing relations.

SCHAPER: Today's agreement opens up a 15-day window for airlines to apply for routes. Competition is expected to be intense. Brandon Belford of the Department of Transportation says officials hope to approve which airlines get what routes by summer.

BRANDON BELFORD: It will enable the carriers enough time to take care of all the other regulatory matters and begin selling tickets such that, you know, flights will begin later this calendar year in the fall.

SCHAPER: Travel restrictions will remain in place so Americans cannot fly to Cuba for tourism, only for one of 12 allowed purposes, including visiting family, humanitarian projects and educational activities. David Schaper, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Schaper is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, based in Chicago, primarily covering transportation and infrastructure, as well as breaking news in Chicago and the Midwest.
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