Last updated: 10:01 AM ET, Tue August 18 2015

Administration Pushing Airlines On Cuba Service

Airlines & Airports | American Airlines | Rich Thomaselli | August 18, 2015

Administration Pushing Airlines On Cuba Service

Photo by David Cogswell

On a day when American Airlines announced it would begin charter service between Los Angeles and Cuba – its first foray into Havana from the west coast – the Obama Administration is quietly pushing for more.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the White House wants U.S. airlines to broker a deal with Cuba that would return scheduled commercial flights to the country for the first time in 50+ years – despite a current travel ban imposed by Congress.

President Obama earlier this year renewed ties with the government of Cuba.

The administration is also pushing to loosen the restrictions on travel to the country, which currently include such items as business dealings, to visit family, or to pursue cultural exchange, the WSJ noted, or what is known as people-to-people travel.

“The one logical thing they could do is let individuals create their own people-to-people program and not force them to go on expensive package tours,” said William LeoGrande, a professor at American University, told the Journal. “If they do that and it’s possible to book an ordinary flight instead of go on a charter, lots more people would go to Cuba.”

U.S. senators Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.) and Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.) both support renewed relations with Cuba and have introduced a bill to lift the travel ban.

In the meantime, American said it will begin the L.A.-Havana charter service on Dec. 12. It will be sold by Cuba Travel Services and operate on Saturdays.

“This new charter flight shows how we continue to expand our reach by offering new routes and services our customers want,” Art Torno, American Airline’s Mexico, Caribbean and Latin America senior vice president said in a statement.

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