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Maiden commercial flight from US to Cuba takes to skies

JetBlue Flight 386 started from Fort Lauderdale in Florida a few minutes after 1400 GMT and landed in central Cuba's Santa Clara in less than half an hour. The flight carried 150 passengers on board. Photograph: (Getty)

WION United States Aug 31, 2016, 05.02 PM (IST)
First regular commercial flight in more than 50 years from the United States to Cuba took to skies today as the two nations look forward to improving ties. 

A JetBlue Airways Corp passenger jet, packed with 150 passengers including US transportation secretary Anthony Foxx, JetBlue chief executive officer Robin Hayes touched down in Cuba's Santa Clara. 

Regular air service was severed during the Cold War, and charter flights have been only air links since. 

JetBlue Flight 386 started from Fort Lauderdale in Florida a few minutes after 1400 GMT and landed in central Cuba's Santa Clara in less than half an hour. 

"It's a new day for Cuba travelers and one we have thoughtfully prepared for. We are proud to usher in a new era of Cuba travel with affordable fares and great service," JetBlue's executive vice president Marty St George told AFP.

This is the first of many air carriers that will be serving Cuba in the following months. Many of these trips will be aimed at or near hot tourist destinations in Cuba.
 
Mark Gale, director of operations for the airport, told AFP it was one of the "great moments in history," likening it to the moon landing or the fall of the Berlin Wall. 

L?zaro Chavez, a 49-year-old pharmacist who lives in Miami and returns frequently to his homeland, told Reuters before boarding the plane he was taking the flight for two reasons. "One, I am going to see my family. Two, I want to be on this historic flight."

Mark Gale, director of operations for the airport, told AFP it was one of the "great moments in history," likening it to the moon landing or the fall of the Berlin Wall. 

However, Reuters reports that despite exceptions to the ban, citizens of the United States of America are not allowed to visit Cuba as tourists. Also, President Obama is yet to convince Congress to lift a longstanding trade embargo on Cuba.

US airlines have added ample capacity and increased their budget for their trips in short run, industry consultant Robert Mann told Reuters.

Havana, however, is yet to receive a permission of twenty daily trips. Meanwhile, Camaguey, Cayo Coco, Cayo Largo, Cienfuegos, Holguin, Manzanillo, Matanzas, Santa Clara and Santiago de Cuba are some of the cities that will land regular flights.

The flights will take off from Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Chicago, Minneapolis and Philadelphia from these Cuban cities.

The airlines involved in the initiative include American Airlines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Silver Airways, Southwest Airlines and Sun Country Airlines, according to the US department of transportation.

(WION with inputs from AFP, Reuters)
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