For the first time in over fifty years, a commercial flight will take off from the United States via Cuba. The aircraft will fly from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to the city of Santa Clara.

The JetBlue Airways Corporation will have the historic honor of rekindling commercial flights between the two countries, severed during the Cold War. The JetBlue Flight 387 will take off at 9:45 a.m. EDT and will last a little bit more than one hour.

Cuba, U.S., Commercial Flight
Image credit: Alejandro Ernesto/EFE

Richard Feinberg, the author of Open for Business: Building the New Cuban Economy, has stated that “seeing the American airlines landing routinely around the island will drive a sense of openness, integration and normality. That has a huge psychological impact.”

A new beginning for US-Cuba relations

The constant flow of aircraft is one of the most crucial elements of Barack Obama’s policy to rekindle the relations between Cuba and the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry posted on his Twitter the last flight was in 1961, fifty-five years ago.

However, many historians agree that it was after Cuba imposed a ban on U.S. flights during the Missile Crisis, in October 1962. The two governments plan to have a route to Havana, with flights from Los Angeles, Houston, New York and Atlanta, and could begin before December.

Cuba, U.S., Commercial Flight
Cuban officials insist the commercial flights’ impact will be diminished because of the (still on) U.S. ban on tourism. Image credit: Alejandro Ernesto/EFE

On board of the 150-seat Airbus A320 are supposed to be Robin Hayes, CEO of JetBlue, Anthony Foxx, U.S. Transportation Secretary and a crew of five Cuban-Americans.

Cuba’s vice minister of transportation Eduardo Rodriguez gave a press conference on Monday, where he stated that this is a “positive step” and a “concrete contribution” towards the normalization of the relations between the countries.

Boosting the Cuban economy

Annually, around one hundred thousand visitors travel to Cuba. However, it is expected this number will triple with the commercial flights available. This massive influx of tourism will certainly boost the damaged Cuban economy.

Most of the regular visitors of the island are Cuban-born Americans that have to use charter companies, which are very expensive, understaffed and troubling.

These companies have very restrictive luggage allowance, do not permit baggage excess and have as much as four-hour check-in waits.

Also, U.S. travelers that have no connection to the island find complicated flying on charters since they don’t offer online booking, which is necessary to overcome the federal affidavit required for Americans.

These charters companies are expected to go out of business once the planned flow of three hundred commercial flights a week between the U.S. and Cuba begins.

How to visit Cuba as an American

Nonetheless, experts believe this will make no difference since U.S. visitors are allowed to travel to Cuba if they fit one of twelve categories. Now, tourists can fill an online federal affidavit to buy their Cuban tourist visa in U.S. airports.

In these categories are included the official business of the U.S. government, intergovernmental organizations, and foreign governments. Also, professional research and professional meetings, journalistic activity, and religious activities are legal reasons for traveling to the island.

There are reasons as whimsical as “support for the Cuban people” and others such as athletic competitions, humanitarian projects, exportation or importation, public performances, workshops and activities of educational institutes, research, and private foundations.

Source: United States Embassy