U.S. Secretary of Transport arrives in Cuba today on first commercial flight to the island

Posted: 31-Aug-16 07:59

Two days ago Cuban authorities revealed that Anthony Foxx, U.S. Secretary of Transport, would be flying to the island today, in what will instantly become the first scheduled flight from the U.S. to land in Cuba for over 50 years. During his time in the island, Mr Foxx is expected to meet Cuban Minister of Transport, Abel Yzquierdo and hold formal talks with Cuban Minister of Tourism, Bruno Rodriguez. To mark the occasion, it has also been revealed that two Cuban-Americans will be piloting today’s inaugural flight, both U.S.-born individuals to Cuban parents.

U.S. Secretary of Transport arrives in Cuba today on first commercial flight to the island

Today’s inaugural commercial flight to Cuba from the U.S. will mark a first in over five decades of interrupted scheduled air service between both countries and will make instant history. JetBlue’s Airbus A320 will be landing in Santa Clara’s International Airport at 10:57 a.m. local time (GMT-4) today after departing Fort Lauderdale at 9:45 a.m.

Onboard, U.S. Secretary of Transport, Mr Anthony Foxx, will be part of this historic moment, as was confirmed by Cuban Vice Minister of Transport, Eduardo Rodriguez, two days earlier. After arriving in Santa Clara, Mr Foxx is expected to travel to Havana to hold talks with his Cuban counterpart, Minister of Transport, Abel Yzquierdo and Cuban Minister of Tourism, Bruno Rodriguez.

The official statement read:

“To coincide with this inaugural flight, the United States of North America’s Secretary of Transport, Anthony Foxx will be traveling to Cuba, arriving at Santa Clara’s airport and later moving to Havana.”

This will be the U.S. Secretary of State’s second visit to Cuba after his first trip in February 2016, during which he shook hands with Cuba’s Minister of Transport after signing a deal that would allow up to 110 daily regular flights from various U.S. ports to Havana and nine other Cuban cities. Speaking on behalf of Cuban authorities, Cuban Minister of Tourism, Bruno Rodriguez added that official talks with Mr. Foxx would include the addition of U.S. cities to the itinerary of Cuba’s national flagship airline, Cubana de Aviacion.

From today onwards, JetBlue will be operating thrice weekly flights to Santa Clara until 29th October, and then reducing the frequency to a weekly flight. On its part, Santa Clara’s Abel Santamaria airport has been gearing up to the event, declaring itself ready to welcome a considerably higher volume of U.S. passengers during this year’s last semester.

Only a week past we had been reporting on the last hurdle for direct Cuba flights from the U.S. being overcome thanks to Cuban authorities giving the green flight to JetBlue and American Airlines to land at Cuban airports. Today it becomes a reality.

To add momentum to today’s historic flight, another source from Cibercuba has revealed that, quite fittingly, the men in charge of piloting JetBlue’s inaugural service to Cuba are both Cuban-Americans, born in the U.S. to Cuban parents. Captain Mark Luaces and First Officer Francisco Barreras will be making history today when they fly the first U.S. passengers on a commercial route to Cuba, for the first time since 1961.

It all forebodes a time of harmony and cooperation between both neighbouring nations, that only grow stronger as more U.S. air carriers land on Cuban soil. After JetBlue’s inaugural flight to Santa Clara today, flights to Camaguey and Holguin will follow over the next days (with the airline launching them for just $99 each way). Silver Airways will be the next to call on Cuba tomorrow, with their inaugural flight also landing in Santa Clara. American Airlines will follow a week later, on 7th September with their first direct flights to Holguin and Cienfuegos launching on the same day.

While Bruno Rodriguez said he didn’t know whether Mr. Foxx would take the opportunity of his visit to Cuba over the coming days to reveal which airlines the DOT (U.S. Department of Transport) has approved for direct travel to Havana, he did remark:

“The resumption of regular direct flights is a positive step that contributes to the improvement of relations between both countries.”

We’re certain this marks a rebirth for Cuba’s tourism, especially for less trodden cities like Santa Clara, Cienfuegos, Camaguey and Holguin, who will see visitor numbers rocket sky high with the influx of new U.S. passengers arriving on a daily, twice-weekly and thrice-weekly basis.


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