The first scheduled commercial flights in more than 50 years between the US and Havana took off Monday, ferrying dozens of passengers to the Cuban capital, in the middle of national mourning period for Fidel Castro, who died last week.
JetBlue’s Havana-bound flight took off from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, while American Airlines flew from Miami to Havana. Others carriers, including United Airlines, Delta and Southwest are scheduled to follow suit within next few days.
US carriers had been flying directly to other Cuban cities from the US since late summer after a ban on many forms of travel to the island was lifted. Cuba and the US formally restored of diplomatic relations in 2015 after more than five decades.
Flights to Cuba are relatively cheap, with service to Havana from the New York starting at around $200 roundtrip, even cheaper than flights to Florida. US travelers must have a license for one of 12 US government-approved reasons for travel to Cuba.
There is one wrinkle in the new market for US sun-and-culture seekers: Donald Trump. The president elect’s camp has threatened before to roll back the new US-Cuba regulations that have made a visit to Cuba possible for thousands of US citizens in the last few months.
But even the threat that the nascent service to Cuba could be stopped under the new administration, could end up becoming a compelling motivator for visitors to go while they can.
“While we can’t speculate, we’re full steam ahead to begin service to Havana this week,” a spokesman for American Airlines said.