First U.S. Commercial Flight In 55 Years To Cuba Lands In Island

REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini

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JP Carroll National Security & Foreign Affairs Reporter
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JetBlue Flight 387 took off from Fort-Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport and landed Wednesday in Cuba after a mere 45 minute flight, which took 55 years to happen.

The flight is the first commercial airliner to travel between the two countries in decades and is only possible as a result of the December 2014 normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba. Cuban Ambassador to the U.S., José Cabañas commemorated the trip with a ribbon cutting ceremony ahead of the flight.

Cabañas said about the fully-booked flight that, “Cuba is ready to continue the cooperation in this and other areas.”

American officials were also excited about the trip.

“Today is one of those days when the smile on your face can break your face — because we are finally going to Cuba,” Stacy Ritter, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, told JetBlue staffers and members of the media ahead of the flight.

The interior of the plane included commemorative pillows with a map of Cuba on each and every seat. Small Cuban flags were also placed on seats according to a passenger’s Tweet.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx was on the Cuba-bound flight because of the Department of Transportation’s role in authorizing what will now be 110 direct flights to Cuba per day from the U.S. The flight took off 21 minutes late from Fort-Lauderdale.

One of the flight’s pilots, Captain Mark Luaces, is the Miami-born son of Cuban parents and one of his relatives had been the Castro family’s pilot. Before takeoff, the flight was honored with a water cannon salute as witnessed by ABC News’ Jeffrey Cook.

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