American to fly nonstop from L.A. to Cuba

FORT WORTH, Texas - American Airlines (AAL) plan to start flying direct from Los Angeles to Havana later this year.

The carrier says the charter service will be the first nonstop flights from the West Coast to Cuba since travel restrictions to the island nation were eased.

American said Tuesday that the flights from Los Angeles International Airport will run on Saturdays starting Dec. 12. They will be sold by Cuba Travel Services.

Americans still must meet certain requirements for travel to Cuba, such as visiting family. Trips that are strictly for tourism are not yet legal.

American has operated charters to Cuba since 1991 and now flies there about 20 times a week from Miami and Tampa, Florida. Along with Havana, the airline flies into Camaguey, Cienfuegos, Holguin and Santa Clara.

Senior vice president Art Torno said the airline is ready to offer scheduled flights as soon as that is allowed.

Interest in travel to Cuba seems to have increased as the Obama administration has moved to restore diplomatic relations. The U.S. last week reopened its embassy in Cuba for the first time in 54 years, and earlier this year was dropped from the government's list of official state sponsors of terror.

In July, JetBlue Airways (JBLU) began weekly charters between New York and Havana.

Citing U.S. officials, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the Obama administration is working on a deal with Cuba that would allow airlines to establish regular flights between the countries by year-end.

That would weaken the travel ban on Americans wishing to travel to Cuba, skirting the issue in Congress.