UPDATE 4-After half a century, U.S. and Cuba to resume scheduled flights
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By Arshad Mohammed and Jeffrey Dastin
WASHINGTON/NEW YORK Dec 17 (Reuters) - The United States and Cuba have agreed to restore scheduled commercial airline service for the first time in more than five decades in a deal allowing 110 round-trip flights a day between the former Cold War foes.
Announced a year to the day after the two countries embarked on a process of normalizing ties, the latest accord will not go into effect immediately but should eventually increase tourism and business on the communist-ruled island.
Under the pact, U.S. airlines will be able to sell tickets on their websites for flights to Cuba but they must first apply for permission from U.S. regulators to fly specific routes. Charter flights operated by U.S. carriers already connect the countries.
The United States and Cuba have agreed to allow 110 round-trip flights on U.S. airlines to Cuba per day, according to Thomas Engle, deputy assistant secretary for transportation affairs at the U.S. State Department.
That includes 20 flights to Havana and 10 to each of the other nine international airports in Cuba, he said, adding that no date has been set for final signing of the aviation pact but that nothing was expected to derail it.
There will likely be a 60-to-90 day process during which U.S.-based air carriers will submit proposed routes, suggesting scheduled flights would not begin until the first few months of 2016 at the earliest.
The decision to restore ties, made by U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro a year ago, in part reflected Washington's judgment that its policy of isolating Havana politically, economically and diplomatically had failed. Continuación...