US-Cuba Thaw Gets Even Warmer
Both nations agree to direct-mail plan and charter flights
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 13, 2015 3:22 PM CST
In this file photo, American Airline planes sit at a gate.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

(Newser) – As relations thaw between the US and Cuba, direct mail is being re-established and charter flights are flying. The two nations announced Friday they have struck a deal to again have direct mail service, which was cut in 1963 at the height of Cold War tensions. Both countries say they will launch a pilot program to test direct service. They gave no date for the permanent resumption of service, but indicated it would not be imminent, saying that technical, operational, and safety aspects remained under discussion. The announcement came six days before the anniversary of the announcement by Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro that they were re-establishing diplomatic relations. The Obama administration has been trying to show tangible results of the new policy ahead of the anniversary.

Meanwhile, the first charter flight from Los Angeles to Havana was celebrated at LAX on Saturday, the LA Times reports. Amid spicy-food smells and the sound of mambo music, city leaders including Mayor Eric Garcetti held a ribbon cutting for the American Airlines 12:45pm flight. Americans still can't travel to Cuba as tourists, but new rules do let certain people (like journalists, close relatives, and people in sports, religion, and entertainment activities) to visit Cuba without official approval. Talks about commercial flights are also underway. "We stand ready to offer scheduled service as soon as the United States and Cuba allow commercial flights," says an American Airlines executive.