WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House is seeking an agreement with Cuba to begin scheduled commercial flights between the two countries as soon as December, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday, citing officials.
The Obama administration is also examining ways of loosening U.S. congressional restrictions on travel by Americans to the Communist-ruled island, the newspaper reported.
On Friday, U.S. Marines hoisted the American flag at the U.S. Embassy in Cuba for the first time in 54 years at a ceremony led by Secretary of State John Kerry that marked the restoration of diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana.
A bill is pending in the U.S. Senate to remove the travel ban on Americans and a more ambitious measure to rescind the decades-old U.S. economic embargo. But the steps face strong opposition from the Republican leadership in control of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Americans currently going to Cuba for authorized reasons such as family or business visits travel there generally on charter flights.
The Journal said the administration and the U.S. airline industry were united behind efforts to resume scheduled airline service to Cuba.
"We’re committed to it, there’s good will on both sides and we’re continuing to talk,” the newspaper quoted a State Department official as saying, adding that a deal by the end of the year “is certainly our hope.”
The White House and State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
(Reporting by Peter Cooney; Editing by Ken Wills)