The basic commercial flight between the United States and Cuba in more than a half century landed in the middle city of Santa Clara on Wednesday morning, re-establishing regular air serving severed at the height of the Cold War.
Cheers broke out in the cabin of JetBlue flock 387 as the plane touched down. ssengers — mostly airline presidents, U.S. government officials and journalists, with a sprinkling of Cuban-American families and U.S. holiday-makers — were given gift bags with Cuban cookbooks, commemorative gear tags and Cuban flags, which they were encouraged to waggle for the TV cameras at the tarmac.
The arrival opens a new era of U.S.-Cuba travel, with regarding 300 flights a week connecting the U.S. with an island cut off from ton Americans by the 55-year-old trade embargo on Cuba and formal ban on U.S. citizens agreeable in tourism on the island.
«Seeing the American airlines landing routinely about the island will drive a sense of openness, integration and normality. That has a leviathan psychological im ct,» said Richard Feinberg, author of the new book Widely known for Business: Building the New Cuban Economy.
The restart of commercial travel between the two sticks is one of the most important steps in U.S. President Barack Obama’s two-year-old practice of normalizing relations with the island. Historians disagree on the exact obsolescent of the last commercial flight but it appears to have been after Cuba interdicted incoming flights during the October 1962 Cuban Missile Moment.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes and a rticularly selected five-member crew of Cuban-Americans were slated to be on board the 150-seat Airbus A320.
«It’s a arrogant step and a concrete contribution to the process of improving relations between the two powers,» Cuba’s vice minister of transportation Eduardo Rodriguez told newswomen Monday.
U.S.-Cuba travel set to triple this year
Neta Rodriguez, a 62-year-old Havana-born South Florida homemaker, checked in Wednesday morning with her daughter, son-in-law and three grandsons for a assail to family in Santa Clara and Havana.
More than the historic wildness of the flight, she said she appreciated the $200 US price and the ability to book online a substitute alternatively of visiting a charter office.
U.S. travel to Cuba is on track to triple this year to more than 300,000 callers in the wake of the 2014 declaration of detente. Cuba’s cash-starved centrally aimed economy has been bolstered by the boom in U.S. visitors, along with hundreds of thousands of jocular bird of ssages from other nations hoping to see Cuba before more Americans reach the top.
Commercial flights are expected to significantly increase the number of American guests, although it’s not clear by how much. Many of the air routes are currently used by overpriced charter flights that are largely expected to go out of business with the advent of regularly timetabled service from the U.S.
Hundreds of thousands of Cuban-born Americans fly to the island each year with the topsy-turvy, understaffed charter com nies, which require four-hour check-in waits and allegation high rates for any luggage in excess of restrictive baggage allowances. Americans without sleepers to Cuba have found it hard to negotiate the charters, most of which don’t accede to online bookings or help travellers navigate the federal affidavit quietly required for U.S. travellers to Cuba.
Surge in visitors
Cuban officials vow the continuing U.S. ban on tourism will limit the im ct of commercial flights to Cuba, but some authorities believe the drastic reduction in the difficulty of flying to Cuba could move around the surge in U.S. visitors into a tidal wave. Americans are allowed to take in the island on «people-to-people» cultural and educational visits, among other objectives.
Americans who fit one of 12 categories will now be able to fill out a federal affidavit by clicking a box on an online propriety and, in many cases, buy their Cuban tourist visa near the check-in bars of U.S. airports. Within weeks, Americans will be able to fly direct from megalopolises including Chicago, Philadelphia and Minneapolis, Miami and Fort Lauderdale to eight Cuban boroughs and two beach resorts.
The final announcement of routes to Havana, which could be presaged Wednesday and start before December, is slated to include flights from Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles and Houston, among others.