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US-Cuba to Revive Airline Service After More Than Half Century

© REUTERS / Enrique De La OsaUS and Cuban flags are seen on the balcony of a restaurant in downtown Havana, Cuba March 19, 2016.
US and Cuban flags are seen on the balcony of a restaurant in downtown Havana, Cuba March 19, 2016. - Sputnik International
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Regular commercial flight services between Cuba and the United States will be re-launched on Wednesday after more than 55 years as part of the process of normalizing relations.

Jose Marti International airport in Havana, Cuba - Sputnik International
US-Cuba Regular Commercial Flights to Resume August 31
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The restored service marks the latest milestone in the slow and cautious thaw in US-Cuban relations. In February 2016, US President Barack Obama announced that regular commercial airline service would be re-opened, reaching up to ten international airports on the Caribbean island nation.

"Santa Clara airport ready to receive Aug. 31, 1st US scheduled flight to Cuba since 1961," Josefina Vidal, head of the Cuban Foreign Ministry’s US department, said in a Twitter post on Tuesday.

US Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx is expected to travel on the first flight to Cuba, the Havana Times reported, where he is set to meet with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla and Transport Minister Adel Yzquierdo.

"The resumption of regular direct flights is a positive step and a contribution to the process of improving relations between the two countries," Cuban Deputy Transportation Minister Eduardo Rodriguez said last week.

JetBlue Airbus 320-200 - Sputnik International
JetBlue to Launch First US Flight to Cuba on August 31
US airline JetBlue will inaugurate the restored service with a direct flight from Fort Lauderdale in the US state of Florida to the city of Santa Clara in central Cuba, the company announced in an official statement, adding that a one-way ticket will cost $99.

On October 1, JetBlue begins daily flights to Santa Clara, according to the statement. Daily flights to two more Cuban cities, Camaguey and Holguin, will start on November 3 and November 10 respectively.

The flight is part of the agreement of up to 110 daily flights to Cuba approved by the US Department of Transportation, 20 to Havana and the other 90 to nine airports in different Cuban cities.

American Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Silver Airways, JetBlue, Sun Country Airlines and Southwest Airlines have received US authorization to fly to different Cuban provincial airports.

Tourists pass by images of US President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro in a banner that reads Welcome to Cuba at the entrance of a restaurant in downtown Havana, March 17, 2016. - Sputnik International
Cuba Says 'Normal' Migration Ties Impossible Without US Policy Changes
Flights will depart from Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Chicago, Minneapolis and Philadelphia and reach the Cuban destinations of Camaguey, Cayo Coco, Cayo Largo, Cienfuegos, Holguin, Manzanillo, Matanzas, Santa Clara and Santiago de Cuba.

Despite this positive step, however, Cuban diplomats have cautioned that the toughest issues between Havana and Washington look unlikely to be resolved before Obama leaves office in January 2017.

"It will take time to normalize relations with the United States," Vidal said in May. "There have been positive steps, and Cuba is not on the list of countries sponsors of terrorism… technical agreements have been signed and we started the way to the normalization of relations."

In December 2014, Obama announced the United States would begin to normalize relations with Cuba after more than 50 years of non-engagement and hostilities. While the two countries reopened embassies in their respective capitals in July 2015, the congressionally-mandated US trade embargo continues to remain in effect.

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