Officials: Cuba Approves Havana-Tampa Flights

Posted July 27th, 2011 at 7:15 pm (UTC-5)
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Officials in Tampa say Cuba has authorized air service between that city and Havana and that charter flights to the Caribbean island could begin as early as September 10.

The flights would be on ABC Charters of Miami.

The chief executive officer of Tampa International Airport said in a statement Wednesday that accessing “this vital international destination” will benefit all of Tampa Bay with its economic impact. Joe Lopano described the announcement as great news for the area's Cuban-American community.

Officials say nearly 140,000 people of Cuban ancestry live within a 90-minute drive of the airport.

Earlier this year, U.S. authorities approved Tampa and seven other airports for charter flights to and from Cuba. Previously, such flights were only allowed from New York's JFK airport as well as the international airports in Miami and Los Angeles. There are no regular commercial flights between the U.S. and Cuba.

U.S. President Barack Obama has eased restrictions on travel and money transfers by Cuban-Americans to family members in Cuba, but said the long-standing U.S. embargo would remain in place until Havana takes steps toward democracy.

The U.S. and Cuba do not have formal diplomatic relations. They have interests sections that are technically part of the Swiss embassies in each other's capitals.