First commercial flight from U.S. to Cuba in 50 years takes off

The first direct commercial flight between the U.S. and Cuba in more than 50 years has taken off from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, marking another historic thaw in relations between the two former Cold War enemies. 

The 9:45am JetBlue flight 387 will land in Santa Clara, Cuba, about 175 miles east of Havana, at a site renowned for the huge memorial that hosts the remains of revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara. 

JetBlue is one of six carriers — the others being American Airlines, Delta, Frontier, Southwest and Silver Airways — that will run a maximum of 110 daily flights to nine Cuban cities, according to the U.S. department of transportation. 

“We do think it’s an important part of history,” Marty St. George, the executive vice president of JetBlue, told The New York Times. “From a challenge perspective, we know the drill. Cuba has some unique elements because of 50 years of history between the U.S. and Cuba, but we’re ready to go.”

After President Barack Obama decided to restore diplomatic relationships with Cuba in 2014, restrictions on travel to the communist-run island have eased. 

Though tourism in Cuba is still illegal for U.S. citizens, there are now 12 categories of “authorized travel”, including for educational, religious and humanitarian reasons.

Secretary of State John Kerry hailed the historic flight as “another step forward”: 

JetBlue celebrated the route with salsa dancing and ribbon cutting: 

And people tweeted pictures of the plane: 

Finally, the aircraft’s doors closed, ready for take off:

from Mashable!