The air bridge between Cuba and the United States, which has been cut off for more than 50 years, has been re-established. On Wednesday morning a JetBlue Flight 387 departed from Fort Lauderdale, Florida and touched down the Cuban soil.
At 10:56 am on August 31 the Airbus 320 jet of the U.S. airline JetBlue flew out of the city of Fort Lauderdale, Florida and landed at the Abel Santamaría International Airport in the city of Santa Clara, 280 kilometres east of Havana.
The flight opens a new era for Cuba. Anthony Foxx, U.S. Transportation Secretary, came to the island to be part of this historic moment in diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba.
This has been the first regular flight between the United States and Cuba after 53 years. The regular service was called off in 1961 amid the U.S. aggression against the Cuban Revolution.
With more than 150 passengers on board, among them airline executives and journalists from foreign press, the flight he was piloted by Captain Mark Luaces and First Officer Francisco Barreras, both Americans of Cuban parents. This inaugural flight is the first step of the airline in Cuba and so it’s a privilege for the city of Santa Clara.
“JetBlue began the charter flights to Cuba around 5 years ago and were successful from an operational standpoint. With the airport of Santa Clara, we have a long and strong working relationship, so we preferred this city for the first commercial flight of JetBlue to Cuba”, said Claudia V. Gonzalez, JetBlue Commercial Manager for Latin America and the Caribbean.
Robin Hayes, president and CEO of JetBlue informed during the press conference that the reestablishment of commercial flights to Cuba was the result of a remarkable teamwork between the US and the Cuban government as well as the airline.
“Cuba has been for some time already the most talked about travel destination, but we are not thrilled to be the first one to arrive, our desire is to be the best.”
The flights have generated great excitement both on the island and among the Cuban-American community in the United States because of considerable reductions in ticket prices. “We’ve lowered prices for tickets in the market as we have worked to significantly reduce the cost of traveling between the US and Cuba. Flights reservations will be easier to get and we are going to provide a positive experience for passengers. The best thing will be to establish a solid and lasting relationship with the Cuban authorities”, said Hayes.
Santa Clara, is just the beginning. JetBlue aims to become the number one airline in travel between the United States and Cuba. To achieve it in November it will start a new service in the city of Camagüey and Holguín in eastern Cuba.
On the Cuban side it has been stressed that these operations will provide more opportunities and will encourage contact between the citizens of both countries. Despite the economic blockade today more than 110 foreign airlines fly to Cuba, and the number of visits on the island has increased by 18% compared to 2015.
“I’m so proud and very excited”, told Soulidays Yara Erosa, a Cuban-American born in New Jersey. “I’ve never come to my country, I didn’t know my country, the one my parents told me about and now to be in Santa Clara is a great opportunity”.
“We truly benefited from this reopening”, said another passenger, Aleisy Barreda, aged 46. “Not only in terms of prices but also because now it is easier to purchase tickets. Now what we need it to have more vacation!”
During September, JetBlue will operate on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between Fort Lauderdale and Santa Clara. In October they are planning to switch to a daily flight schedule.
With the arrival of the first flight to Santa Clara JetBlue starts a new era, as a new air route has been reestablished that brings closer both countries separated by more than 50 years.