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Historic Civil Aviation Agreement Will Impact Local Airports, Businesses, Travelers

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) -- Business is booming at ABC Charters in West Miami-Dade.

The phones ring constantly with mostly Cuban-Americans attempting to book charter flights to the island. By air used to be the only way for most U.S. visitors to travel to the island.

Charters account for 60 percent of owner Tessie Aral's business.

"I have 15 flights a week with 150 passenger capacity on each of those flights," Aral told CBS4's Natalia Zea.

But Aral believes that will all change soon.

The State Department announced it has agreed to a deal with the Cuban government to allow commercial airlines to fly regularly between the two nations, which could edge out charter companies like Aral's.

"Airlines don't let you get away with just competing with them," said Aral.

The deal will allow for 110 commercial flights roundtrip between U.S. cities and airports on the island. Once U.S. agencies approve the airline flight paths, possibly within the next few months, visitors will be able to book travel to Cuba like they would any other destination.

Zea spoke with travelers at Miami International Airport waiting to fly to Cuba. They were all onboard with the changes hoping for more convenient booking and lower fares.

"I think it's a good thing," said Jessica Garcia.

"More Americans can travel and give business to Cuba," said Sharmeen Jones.

Travel to Cuba has already gone up recently.

Out of M.I.A. alone in 2014, nearly 3,400 charter flights departed to Cuba. After the President re-engaged with Havana, 384 new charter flights were added, carrying nearly 400-thousand people to Cuba this year.

Once carriers can fly regularly scheduled routes to the island, that number may skyrocket.

Managers at South Florida airports tell Zea they're ready for more passengers and more flight options.

Aral says she will fight to keep her 30 employees working by expanding travel services beyond flights.

"We're training our employees for different things, so we can be more well-rounded. Your one-stop for anything that has to do with Cuba or the Carribbean," said Aral.

She added, "Cuba is the new frontier."

This historic change does not mean, however, that anyone can just head to the airport and jump on a flight to Cuba. The U.S. government's ban on general tourism in Cuba still remains.

For a complete list of all the restrictions click here:

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