WASHINGTON, Dec 17 (Reuters) - The United States and Cuba have agreed to restore scheduled commercial airline service between the two countries, the U.S. State Department said on Thursday on the one-year anniversary of the Cold War foes' decision to normalize relations.
The deal, the result of months of negotiations, paves the way for U.S. airlines to sell flights to Cuba directly from their websites and for greater tourism and business on the communist-ruled island.
Scheduled commercial flight service had been suspended for decades as a result of Cold War animosity, although charter flights connected the countries in the interim.
The State Department said in a statement the arrangement "will continue to allow charter operations and establish scheduled air service, which will facilitate an increase in authorized travel, enhance traveler choices and promote people-to-people links between the two countries."
President Barack Obama relaxed travel restrictions to Cuba earlier this year. That has led to a boom in U.S. citizens' visits to Cuba, which are up 71 percent this year, with 138,120 Americans arriving over the first 11 months.
(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed, Jeffrey Dastin and Daniel Trotta; Editing by Eric Walsh and Will Dunham)