U.S. airlines are gearing up for regular flights to Cuba as the Obama administration pursues a deal to allow commercial travel between the two countries.
Such an agreement, which a White House official said Tuesday was under consideration, would expand travel options between the U.S. and Cuba without requiring Congress to lift five-decade-old travel restrictions. Airlines already have benefited this year from increased travel by Americans to Cuba, where the U.S. marked the reopening of its embassy in a flag-raising ceremony last week.
American Airlines said Tuesday that it would begin offering flights directly from Los Angeles to Havana, in partnership with Cuba Travel Services, a charter operator. If the U.S. and Cuba enter into a new civil aviation agreement, American could operate regular service, without using a charter company.
“We are looking forward to the governments getting a bilateral worked out and looking forward to opening up scheduled Cuba service as soon as we possibly can,” said Howard Kass, vice president of regulatory affairs at American Airlines Group Inc.
Eased travel rules could lead to a 10-fold increase in U.S. visitors to the island, boosting revenue for airlines, according to a Bloomberg Intelligence analysis.