First daily direct flight from South Florida airport to Havana takes off
American Airlines flight left from Miami International Airport
MIAMI – The first daily direct flight from South Florida to Havana took off Monday morning in Miami.
American Airlines flight 17 was an historic milestone that came on the heels of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro's death on Friday at the age of 90.
"I think it will be very interesting. Everybody knew that he was in ill health (and) this was coming, (but) I didn't expect it to be during our trip," passenger Daniel Lewis said.
American Airlines will now be operating four daily flights from Miami International Airport to Havana.
The flight took off at 7:30 a.m. with a water cannon salute and landed in Havana at 8:30 a.m.
American Airlines is the first U.S. airline to land a commercial flight in Havana from Miami. The airline has been flying to the communist island for more than two decades by way of charter service. The difference now is booking is made easy.
There is still a ban for Americans visiting Cuba and tourism is illegal, but there are 12 categories of authorized travel which includes educational, religious and humanitarian reasons. Monday's flight is one more step to restoring diplomatic relations with the Cuban government.
"It's been (more than) five decades since we've had this kind of connection with Cuba into Havana directly," said Victor Mendez from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
In the weeks to come, eight more airlines will travel nonstop to Havana. Those airlines include United, JetBlue, Delta, Spirit, Frontier, Alaska and Southwest.
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