Airlines are lining up to apply for flights between domestic airports and Cuba.
The Department of Transportation is allowing airlines to apply to operate 20 daily flights between the U.S. and Havana and 10 round trips between domestic airports and other Cuba destinations.
U.S. carriers are chomping at the bit to offer service to the communist nation, which has been engaged in a stalemate with the U.S. that has resulted in a travel ban between the countries for the past 50 years.
“American Airlines commends the U.S. government for its commitment to re-establishing cultural and economic ties between the U.S. and Cuba, and for laying the groundwork to restore scheduled air service between the two countries for the first time in more than 50 years,” American Air CEO Doug Parker said in a statement.
"American looks forward to submitting a Cuba service proposal to the Department of Transportation in the coming weeks,” he continued.
“Filing for service to Havana is an important moment in aviation history for Delta and between the U.S. and Cuba,” added Nicolas Ferri, Delta’s Vice President - Latin America and the Caribbean. “We look forward to providing access to the island from the U.S. and around the world; this market will increase the strength of our network in the Caribbean.”
"United intends to apply to offer service between some of its global gateways and Havana through the Department of Transportation's pending route case," United said in a statement of its own. "Assuming service is approved, United customers will benefit from United's expanded global route network and new opportunities for leisure and business travel to Cuba."
Obama administration officials have said the move to allow commercial travel between the U.S. and Cuba is part of the effort by the president to normalize relations between the countries.
"We are excited to announce the availability of new scheduled air service opportunities to Cuba for U.S. carriers, shippers, and the traveling public, and we will conduct this proceeding in a manner designed to maximize public benefits,” Transportation Secretary Anthony FoxxAnthony Renard FoxxBusiness, labor groups teaming in high-speed rail push Hillicon Valley: Uber, Lyft agree to take California labor win nationwide | Zoom to implement new security program along with FTC | Virgin Hyperloop completes first test ride with passengers Uber, Lyft eager to take California labor win nationwide MORE said in a statement.
The DOT said Tuesday that airlines will have until March 2 to apply to operate Cuba flights.
The agency said travel to Cuba will have to fit one of 12 categories: "family visits; official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations; journalistic activity; professional research and professional meetings; educational activities; religious activities; public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; support for the Cuban people; humanitarian projects; activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials; and certain authorized export transactions."
Travel to the communist nation for reasons outside of the authorized list remains illegal.
Travel groups have said the move to allow commercial flights would allow a boom in tourism for the U.S. and Cuba if Congress signs off on the deal between the Obama administration and Cuban officials.
"Resuming commercial air travel will benefit American consumers and the ASTA travel agents who serve them," American Society of Travel Agents President Zane Kerby said in a statement.
"We estimate at least two million additional Americans could visit Cuba by 2018 if Congress were to lift the travel ban before the end of this year," he continued. "While U.S. law still prohibits travel to Cuba for tourist activities, we are encouraged by the continued progress made by the Obama Administration, and we strongly urge Congress to enact the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act and fully repeal the travel ban once and for all."