Representatives of the United States and Cuba will meet Monday in Havana to begin the process to allow scheduled airline passenger service between the two countries.
Assistant Secretary of State of Economic and Business Affairs Charles H. Rivkin will head the delegation for Civil Aviation Technical Talks. The two-day meeting has been highly anticipated by American airline carriers, travel agents, potential travelers, and the Obama Administration which is eager to showcase tangible evidence as a result of the opening of diplomatic relations.
Currently American air carriers, such as American Airlines, lease aircraft to U.S. based charter travel services that have U.S. government license to serve the Island. On any given day Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport will have several U.S. passenger jets off loading passengers. Cuba’s Cubana Airlines does not fly to the United States nor are there currently any Cuban based air services that fly to U.S. cities due to the Cuban Embargo. Several U.S. carriers such as American and Jet blue have announced their desire to serve the Island Nation.
Monday’s talks will attempt to begin the process of kick starting air service which has been suspended since the early 1960’s. If commercial flights are allowed tourists will still not be permitted to fly to Cuba on a whim for a beach and sightseeing vacation. Those who could take advantage of the flights would be Cuban Americans who are allowed to visit relatives on the Island and travelers who fit one of 12 categories of U.S. citizens who can apply to travel to the Island.
Late Tuesday the State Department announced the meeting noting that “While U.S law continues to prohibit travel to Cuba for tourism activities, a strong civil aviation relationship will facilitate the strong growth in travel between the two countries….”
The delegates will set an agenda for future talks and discuss aviation safety and security.
The man heading the U.S. delegation is no faceless bureaucrat. Charles Rivkin prior to his State Department posting served as the United States Ambassador to France. His father, William Rivkin was appointed the Ambassador to Luxembourg under President John F. Kennedy.