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cuba flights

The US and Cuba have agreed to restore regular commercial flights, in a deal that could jumpstart economic relations between the two countries.

The agreement paves the way for thousands of visitors to Cuba on a daily basis.

The deal was announced on December 17, exactly one year since President Barack Obama and his Cuban counterpart, President Raul Castro, announced a historic detente.

It is not known when the first Cuba-bound flights will take off.

The pact – the most significant business development since the presidents’ announcement one year ago – allows US airlines to negotiate with the Cuban government over commercial flight routes and schedules.

It could mean more than a dozen flights arriving into Cuba from the United States a day, officials said.

The understanding is a key development as Cuba and the US continue to negotiate over a number of issues which could ultimately see the US trade embargo lifted.

Photo AP

Photo AP

The news comes as travel between the United States and Cuba surged by over 70% in 2015, according to Reuters.

Thousands of Americans are already visiting Cuba and hotels and hostels are booked for months.

Those traveling have to do so using difficult-to-book charter flights or via third countries, and are forced to navigate an intricate web of laws in order for their travel to be legal.

The State Department reminded US citizens on December 17 that a ban on touristic travel to Cuba remains in place.

Raul Castro and Barack Obama announced the normalization of relations on December 17, 2014, after more than 50 years of hostility between the Cold War foes.

One year out, President Barack Obama is marking the anniversary by calling on the US Congress to lift the trade embargo on Cuba, releasing a statement that says, in part: “Congress can support a better life for the Cuban people by lifting an embargo that is a legacy of a failed policy.”

Since then, embassies have opened in Havana and Washington, a pilot postal program has been agreed, phone links established, environmental deals have been inked, human rights talks have started, as well as a number of other developments.

Yet much stands in the way of fully-restored relations, most notably the US-imposed trade embargo, which Republicans have strongly defended.

US and Cuba Agree to Restore Regular Commercial Flights