U.S. names airlines, cities hosting first flights to Cuba

Last Updated Jul 7, 2016 1:19 PM EDT

Taking another step towards normalized relations with Cuba, the Obama administration is proposing eight U.S. airlines to start flying from 10 American cities to Havana.

Thursday's proposal comes nearly one year after the United States and Cuba reestablished diplomatic relations, and the flights would mark the first such travel between the countries in more than 50 years.

"Restoring regular air service holds tremendous potential to reunite Cuban American families and foster education and opportunities for American businesses of all sizes," U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) chose Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines and United Airlines.

The carriers would begin as early as this fall Havana-bound flights between Atlanta, Charlotte, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, New York City, Orlando and Tampa. The agency is expected to finalize its plans later in the summer.

The DOT proposal allocates nonstop Havana air service to areas that have substantial Cuban-American populations and are seen as important aviation hub cities, the agency said.

Separately, Cuban officials said the number of American travelers to the island is up 84 percent for the first half of the year, compared with the same January-June period in 2015.

State news agency Prensa Latina reports that Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero gave that figure to members of parliament.

The total number of U.S. visitors was not made public, and the figure does not include the hundreds of thousands of Cuban-Americans who travel to the island each year on family visits.

Overall tourism to Cuba was reportedly up 11.7 percent for the first six months of 2016, with a total of 2,147,600 travelers to the island.

Prensa Latina said Thursday that there were also significant increases in visitors from nations such as Spain, Italy, Poland and Germany.

-- the Associated Press contributed to this story