Pan Am and Aeroflot Resume Direct U.S.-Soviet Air Service
Direct air service between the Soviet Union and the United States, a legacy of last November’s Geneva summit meeting, resumed Tuesday.
Pan American World Airways Flight 74, carrying 57 passengers, landed in Moscow, renewing service to the Soviet Union that was halted in 1978 for financial reasons.
In turn, an Aeroflot plane from Moscow arrived in Washington, ending a U.S. embargo imposed by the United States in December, 1981, to protest the imposition of martial law in Poland.
President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev decided at Geneva to renew commercial flights to make it easier to carry out cultural, scientific and educational exchanges between their countries.
“It’s a very important step, and we hope it works,” said U.S. Ambassador Arthur A. Hartman, who returned to Moscow on the Pan Am flight from Frankfurt, West Germany. “They want it to happen, and so do we.”
The welcoming ceremony at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport went smoothly without any mention of recent Soviet-American discord over the U.S. bombing of Libya or other unpleasant topics.
“The air bridge between the United States and the Soviet Union is open,” Oleg M. Smirnov, deputy minister of civil aviation, told American passengers on the inaugural flight. “We see the renewal of the flights serving the cause of normalizing Soviet-American relations,” he added.
Hans Mirka, vice president of marketing for Pan Am, also struck a positive note, saying, “We are glad to be back doing business in the Soviet Union.”
Pan American halted its Moscow service eight years ago, U.S. officials said, because it was losing money in the operating agreement it then had with Aeroflot, the Soviet national flag carrier.
In the last round of negotiations, however, Pan Am said it struck a better agreement and it hopes that the flights, to Leningrad as well as Moscow, will turn a profit this time.
Under the agreement, each airline will be able to have four round-trip flights.
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