After 55 Years, a Commercial Flight From US Lands in Cuba

This is an important step in President Barack Obama’s two-year-old policy of normalising relations with Cuba.

2 min read
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The first commercial flight between the United States and Cuba in more than half a century landed in the central city of Santa Clara on Wednesday morning, re-establishing regular air service severed at the height of the Cold War.

Cheers broke out in the cabin of JetBlue flight 387 as the plane touched down. Passengers mostly included airline executives, US government officials and journalists, with a sprinkling of Cuban-American families and US travellers.

The arrival opens a new era of US-Cuba travel with about 300 flights a week connecting the US with an island cut off from most Americans by the 55-year-old trade embargo on Cuba and formal ban on US citizens engaging in tourism on the island.

The restart of commercial travel between the two countries is one of the most important steps in President Barack Obama’s two-year-old policy of normalising relations with the island.


Historians disagree on the exact date of the last commercial flight but it appears to have been after Cuba banned incoming flights during the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Twitter that the last commercial flight was in 1961.

It’s a positive step and a concrete contribution to the process of improving relations between the two countries.
Eduardo Rodriguez, Cuba’s Vice Minister of Transportation

US travel to Cuba is on track to triple this year to more than 3,00,000 visitors in the wake of the 2014 declaration of detente.

Hundreds of thousands of Cuban-born Americans fly to the island each year with the chaotic, understaffed charter companies, which require four-hour check-in waits and charge high rates for any luggage in excess of restrictive baggage allowances.

Cuban officials insist the continuing US ban on tourism will limit the impact of commercial flights to Cuba, but some experts believe the drastic reduction in the difficulty of flying to Cuba could turn the surge in US visitors into a tidal wave. Americans are allowed to visit the island on “people-to-people” cultural and educational visits, among other reasons.

(The article has been edited for length.)

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Topics:  Flight   US-Cuba 

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