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Posted July 14, 2003 by publisher in Cuba Travel

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MONTREAL, July 11 (Reuters) - The Canadian government has given Air Canada AC.TO the right to operate scheduled passenger flights to Cuba, Transport Minister David Collenette said on Friday.

The minister’s office said Montreal-based Air Canada, which has been under court protection from creditors since April 1, will schedule flights from several Canadian cities—including Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto—to Havana, Varadero, Holguin and one other Cuban city.

But Air Canada, which already offers seasonal charter flights to Cuba, said it had not yet chosen the start date or destination cities for its scheduled service to Cuba.

“We haven’t made any decisions on the startup of the possible service or the routes,” said Air Canada spokeswoman Renee Smith-Valade.

“We’re still in the process of determining what the market can bear and what the demand will be, but we will have an announcement on those details in the near future.”

Under and agreement between Canada and Cuba, each can authorize two airlines to operate scheduled service between the two countries. Cubana, the only designated Cuban air carrier, serves Montreal and Toronto.

Charter flight operator Air Transat, a unit of Groupe Transat A.T. Inc. TRZ.TO , is the other Canadian airline holding the right to provide scheduled air services to Cuba.

Air Canada is seeking to restructure its debt and aircraft lease obligations and slash operating costs in hopes of emerging from bankruptcy protection by the end of this year as a leaner, profitable airline.

Air Canada shares were off 4 Canadian cents at C$1.53 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Friday afternoon. Transat shares slipped 1 Canadian cent at C$4.50.

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