Mail can once again be sent directly between the United States and Cuba.
"Correos de Cuba [the Cuban mail service] and the Postal Service of the United States have agreed to permanently implement the exchange of mail between the two countries on direct flights," Correos de Cuba announced Friday on its website.
The launch of permanent direct mail service follows a pilot program that began in March 2016 during the Obama administration. Before that, mail between the United States and Cuba traveled via third countries such as Mexico, Panama, and Canada, and long delays were common.
The first direct-mail flight between the two countries in more than five decades came just before former President Barack Obama arrived in Cuba for an official visit in 2016. To commemorate the pilot program, the president sent a letter on the flight to Ileana Yarza, a Havana woman who had become his pen pal.
The pilot program continued for a year using charter airlines, but then expired. Using the technical, security, and operating requirements identified during the trial, direct mail service using the new format resumed on April 16, according to Correos de Cuba and the U.S. State Department. Packages, priority mail and regular correspondence can now be sent directly.
Rather than charter flights, the mail and parcels are now traveling via regularly scheduled airlines, said a State Department spokesperson.
While relations between the United States and Cuba have cooled during the Trump administration, they have moved ahead on some issues of mutual interest such as direct mail, environmental protection and law enforcement cooperation.