First Scheduled Commercial Flight to Cuba in 50 Years Lands in Santa Clara
Jetblue prepared to make history Wednesday as the company readied the first scheduled commercial passenger airline to fly from the U.S. to Cuba in more than 50 years.
The 9:45 a.m. flight, from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, to Santa Clara, Cuba, was set to be the first of a regular route for the airline.
“We do think it’s an important part of history,” Marty St. George, the executive vice president of JetBlue, told the New York Times. “From a challenge perspective, we know the drill. Cuba has some unique elements because of 50 years of history between the U.S. and Cuba, but we’re ready to go.”
JetBlue celebrated the new route with celebrations at the airport in Ft. Lauderdale, including singing and salsa dancing.
Relations between the U.S. and Cuba have been warming since President Barack Obama began rebuilding diplomatic relations with the country in December 2014.
At least six airlines won permission to start or resume flights to Cuba in a landmark moment in June 2016, including American, Frontier, JetBlue, Silver Airways, Southwest and Sun Country. JetBlue will be the first carrier to begin regular service, and American will be the second on Thursday.
For adventurous travelers who have long wanted to visit the U.S.’ neighbor to the south, the wait is not quite over, however: The law still prohibits U.S. travelers from going to Cuba strictly for tourism, and those who want to visit must qualify under 12 reasons sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury, which include business, religious and educational travel, as well as visiting family.
"While all of the flights are unlikely to operate at capacity, the airlines want to plant their respective flags," John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council Inc., told Reuters.
Jetblue flight 387 landed in Santa Clara, Cuba, just before 11:30 a.m. local time.