Cuba and the U.S. are quickly becoming best––or at least better—friends. This week alone has seen the re-establishment of commercial flights, the approval of the first American factory to be built on the island since Fidel Castro took power in 1959, as well the return of a misplaced American missile.
On Tuesday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx flew to Havana and signed an agreement with Cuban officials that allows American airlines to compete for up to 110 flight routes per day. It was the latest step toward normalizing relations since Barack Obama and Raul Castro made their historic announcements in 2014 to restore ties.
The flight agreement would give commercial carriers 15 days to submit an application to the Transportation Department outlining the routes and destinations they’d like to fly to. It would allow carriers like American Airlines, JetBlue, Southwest Airlines, and Delta Air Lines––all of which have expressed interest––to bid for 20 daily flights to Havana, and 10 to each of Cuba’s other nine international airports.
Soon after Obama announced the thaw in relations between the U.S. and Cuba in 2014, American tourism to the island jumped. Last year, some 160,000 American tourists flew to the island, the Associated Press reported—a 77 percent increase over the previous year. That number doesn’t include the hundreds of thousands Cuban Americans allowed to visit family. Previously, flights to the country were restricted to around a dozen charter companies. Travel is supposed to have been, and still is, only for family visits, reporting trips, educational tours, and professional meetings––though, this seems to be softly enforced.