Commercial US flight lands in Cuba for first time in 50 years

Commercial US flight lands in Cuba for first time in 50 years
© Getty Images

A commercial U.S. flight touched down in Cuba on Wednesday for the first time in 50 years, marking a historic milestone in President Obama's push to normalize relations with the island nation.


A JetBlue flight from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport to Santa Clara, Cuba, departed Wednesday morning, carrying a mix of media, officials, airline executives and regular travelers, according to ABC News.

Also on board the 45-minute flight was Transportation Secretary Anthony FoxxAnthony Renard FoxxBig Dem names show little interest in Senate Lyft sues New York over new driver minimum pay law Lyft confidentially files for IPO MORE, who is expected to announce the finalized routes for 20 daily nonstop flights to Havana soon. The agency awarded flights to other Cuban cities earlier this year.

Passengers reportedly enjoyed an in-flight bingo game and giveaways; JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes was also expected to give remarks on board. When passengers deplaned, they were supposed to be greeted by a reception and remarks from dignitaries, according to ABC.

Resuming commercial service with Cuba has drawn mixed reviews.

Some view it as the first major step toward improving relations with the former Cold War rival, although tourists are still not eligible to fly to Cuba.

The new routes will open up travel for family visits, official U.S. government business, foreign governments, journalistic activity, professional research, educational activities, religious activities, public performances, humanitarian projects and certain authorized export transactions.

“Today marks a turning point in U.S. relations with Cuba as cheaper and easier commercial flights now make travel to Cuba an option for that many more Americans,” said James Williams, president of Engage Cuba. “As more and more Americans visit our island neighbor and talk to everyday Cubans, the more Americans will see that the embargo is just an outdated relic of the Cold War era.”

But some lawmakers have raised concern over the quality of Cuba’s airport security and are pushing a bill that would ground flights to Cuba until the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) conducts a thorough investigation of the security protocols at all of Cuba’s 10 international airports.

They also wanted to ensure that federal air marshals will be aboard certain U.S. flights to and from Cuba. The TSA announced that it had reached an agreement with Cuba to do so earlier this month.

“In spite of concerns about the security of Cuban airports, the Obama Administration continues to push political goals at the expense of the safety and security of the traveling public by moving forward with commercial flights between Cuba and the U.S.," said Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.).

"This premature, and ill-advised opening represents a direct threat to our national security. Cuba has long been tied to criminal and terrorist enterprises."