On December 16, the U.S. government reached (but has not yet signed) an agreement with Cuba that would allow commercial airlines to resume scheduled air service between the two countries. The U.S. State Department said that under the deal, U.S. airlines could operate up to 110 round-trip flights per day between the United States and Cuba as soon as 2016, which includes 20 flights to Havana and 10 to each of the other nine international airports in Cuba. Charter flights – which are currently allowed – will continue. U.S. airlines will have to apply for permission from the U.S. Department of Transportation to fly specific routes between the countries. Several airlines have already expressed interest in providing scheduled service to Cuba, including American Airlines, United Airlines, Spirit Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Delta Air Lines and JetBlue Airways.
Despite the progress toward establishing scheduled commercial service, most U.S. citizens and permanent residents are still prohibited under U.S. law from traveling to Cuba. U.S. travelers may visit the country for certain purposes, including family visits, official business on behalf of the United States or foreign governments, attendance at professional meetings, educational and religious activities, and humanitarian projects, among others, but ordinary tourist travel remains prohibited. Additionally, the U.S. trade embargo of Cuba remains largely intact. With some very narrow exceptions, it is still generally prohibited for U.S. persons to engage in transactions involving Cuba under rules administered by the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). (See Cozen O’Connor Alert “OFAC and BIS Announce Further Easing of Cuba Sanctions,” September 28, 2015.)
We will continue to monitor developments regarding these policy changes and provide further guidance as details are announced.