The first weekly charter flight connecting Los Angeles to Havana departs Saturday, reflecting the continued easing of travel restrictions between the U.S. and Cuba.
American Airlines will launch the weekly nonstop flight with a Boeing 737. The Fort Worth-based airline already operates several charter flights to Cuba from Tampa, Fla., and Miami but the flight from Los Angeles International Airport will be the first from the West Coast.
The flights to Cuba will be sold by Cuba Travel Services.
The new flight is the latest signal that the nation’s airline industry is gearing up for an easing of travel restrictions to Cuba, announced by President Obama last year.
U.S. law still bars normal tourism to Cuba but new rules now allow ordinary Americans for the first time to visit under 12 broad categories without any advance U.S. government approval. The twelve categories include visits to close relatives, attending academic programs, conducting professional research, journalistic or religious activities and participating in public performances or sports competitions.
A civil aviation agreement with Cuba would be needed before regular commercial flights could operate between the two countries.
American Airlines executives say they are looking forward to such an agreement.
“We stand ready to offer scheduled service as soon as the United States and Cuba allow commercial flights,” said Art Torno, a senior vice president at American Airlines.
The first flight will depart at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, following a ceremony attended by several airport officials and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.
By Hugo Martin, Los Angeles Times
December 8, 2015