First direct flight from San Juan lands in Havana after nearly 60 years

Posted: 26-Jun-15 14:15

A new charter flight from Swiftair, coordinated by Puerto Rican tourist agency, Tony Perez, touched down in Havana yesterday, marking the first time in nearly six decades that a regular flight from Puerto Rico's capital arrives to Cuba's capital. From now on, a weekly Thursday flight from San Juan will be arriving at Terminal 2 of Havana's Jose Marti International Airport.

First direct flight from San Juan lands in Havana after nearly 60 years

It was only last year in late August that the first flight from San Juan had landed in Santiago de Cuba, marking first direct commercial flight between Puerto Rico and Cuba in over half a century.

The flight was made with a plane chartered by the company Cuba Travel Services and at that time there were only 20 passengers onboard, the vast majority of which were businessmen.

Fast-forward to almost a year later yesterday and you have the first regular direct flight connection between both Caribbean islands. Tony Perez’s tourist agency, which is named after its owner, instantly became the first ever company to establish these new scheduled commercial flights, which launched yesterday with the first plane departing from San Juan’s Luis Muñoz Marin airport (SJU) at 08.00 local time.

Of the 150 passengers onboard the Spanish airline, Swiftair, the majority was heading to Cuba in order to attend the IX International Havana Festival of Danzon (Festival Internacional Danzón Habana), in which various singers from nine countries will participate, including representatives from the U.S. for the first time since the festival’s foundation.

Tony Perez declared:

"This opportunity means opening a new destination that had been vetoed indefinitely since Fidel Castro took power in 1959."

According to Mr Perez, he has plans for continuing to offer the two-hour, twenty-minute flights at least until 30th July 2015.

Even when this first flight to Cuba was packed, Perez declared that for the time being the next flights aren’t selling so well, since the tickets “are not cheap and Puerto Ricans don’t know much about the destination”. The cost of the return flight, which includes a visa for entry into Cuba (priced at $25 U.S. dollars) is $894 USD for those who don’t have Cuban passports.

These are still small but important baby steps towards establishing a more open tourism market between the two nations, as Puerto Rico is part of the U.S. and the U.S. still doesn’t allow travel to Cuba for tourism purposes. So far, entry to Cuba is only allowed for government officials, journalists, full-time professionals, religious organisations or someone with relatives in Cuba.

At least five American airlines (Delta, American Airlines, JetBlue, Southwest and United) have made clear their intentions and wishes for opening new direct commercial flights to Cuba in the near future


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