On Saturday, the first flights from the West Coast to Havana, Cuba, were initiated, although must tourists are still banned from visiting Cuba.
The first Saturday weekly nonstop flights were launched by American Airlines; the inaugural fight featured a ribbon-cutting ceremony that Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti, other city officials and airline and airport executives attended, as the Los Angeles Times reported. American Airlines already offers flights to Cuba from Tampa and Miami.
The Obama Administration and the Castro regime in Cuba have been discussing commercial flights back and forth, which would require a civil aviation agreement. Art Torno, an American Airlines senior vice president, has stated, “We stand ready to offer scheduled service as soon as the United States and Cuba allow commercial flights.”
Barack Obama’s easing for restrictions on the decades-old embargo of Cuba has infuriated members of the Senate from both parties, as the Washington Post reported in September.
Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez (N.J.) charged, “The administration is engaged in one-way change, because there’s no change in Cuba,” adding that the Obama administration had “dangerously engaged in a regulatory effort to circumvent and maybe violate the law.”
Sens. Ted Cruz (Tex.) and Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.) have passionately opposed normalizing relations with Cuba. When Obama announced he would normalize relations with Cuba, Cruz asserted, “America is, in effect, writing the check that will allow the Castros to follow Vladimir Putin’s playbook of repression.”
Rubio echoed, “I don’t care if the polls say that 99 percent of people believe we should normalize relations in Cuba…This is my position, and I feel passionately about it.”
The New York Times delineated the rules for travelers to Cuba in September:
As long as the trip falls within one of 12 purposes, Americans can go to Cuba without having to apply for permission, in the form of a license, from the government. The 12 categories of legal travel include visits to close relatives, academic programs for which students receive credits, professional research, journalistic or religious activities and participation in public performances or sports competitions.