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US airlines given go-ahead for Havana flights

Cuban flag Image copyright Getty Images

The US government has given approval to eight airlines for flights to the Cuban capital Havana.

The announcement comes on the same day as the first commercial flight between the two countries in 55 years.

Under President Obama, the US has begun normalising relationships with Cuba.

The list of US airlines now granted permission to fly to Havana includes: American Airlines, Jet Blue, Delta, Southwest, United, Alaska Air, Spirit, and Frontier Airlines.

Most airlines plan to launch flights later this year or at the beginning of 2017.

Until now only chartered flights flew from the US to the Communist country. Most Americans travelled to the island, which is just 90 miles (144km) from the tip of Florida, via a third country.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The first commercial US flight touched down in Santa Clara on Wednesday

Easing relations

Relations between the US and Cuba had been frozen since the 1960s when the US placed an embargo on the communist nation.

In 2014 President Obama announced he would take steps to normalise the relationship, and in August 2015 the US reopened its embassy in Havana after more than five decades.

The president is unable to lift the trade embargo and under US law Americans are still not permitted to travel to Cuba for tourism.

Travel even on commercial flights must fit into twelve pre-approved categories that include family visit, education and journalism.

A Jet Blue flight from Miami landed in Santa Clara, Cuba on Wednesday morning, marking the changing relationship.

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