Flight 387 will go down in the annals of history. It belongs to an American low cost airline jetBlue and is the first regular commercial flight to connect the US and Cuba in 55 years (the video shows the ceremony organised by jetBlue and the take-off).
On 31st of August, the aircraft set out from Fort Lauderdale to land in Santa Clara, a town located 155 miles east of the Cuban capital. 150 passengers were on board: government members from both countries, airline managers, Cuban American passengers and some journalists. For the record, the captain and the co-pilot of the Airbus A320 were both American but of Cuban stock.
This flight marks the resumption of diplomatic relations between the two countries, a process that was started in 2015 by Barack Obama. Until the revolution led by Fidel Castro in 1959, Cuba was a popular destination for Americans. But in 1961, because of the embargo the United States placed on Cuba during the cold war, air traffic between the two countries was halted. Only 20-odd daily charter flights have been authorized between the two countries since 1979.
According to the US Department of Transportation, American companies will soon operate over a hundred daily regular flights to Cuba. A total of eight companies (Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, jetBlue & United Airlines) will service Havana this autumn from Fort Lauderdale, Atlanta, Charlotte, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, New York, Orlando as well as Tampa. As for jetBlue, whose Fort Lauderdale – Santa Clara one-way ticket is at $99, the airline will launch two other cuban destinations from Florida: Camagüey and Holguín.
However, despite the fact that the Obama administration has made travelling to Cuba easier, American citizens are still forbidden from touring in Cuba. This paradoxical situation hasn’t prevented Americans from going there for officially acceptable reasons. In fact there are twelve officially acceptable reasons, which include visiting relatives, professional meetings or for journalistic, cultural or sports events reasons.
This easing in regulations should have a strong impact on tourism in Cuba. Last year, the island hosted more than 160,000 American visitors, a 76% hike compared to 2014. And for the first four months of this year, Cuba has registered 94,000 American visitors.