The first regular commercial flight in more than 50 years from the United States landed in Cuba on Wednesday, as the two nations took the latest step in their efforts to boost ties.
JetBlue Flight 386 landed in the central Cuban city of Santa Clara a little before 11 am (1500 GMT), about an hour after leaving Fort Lauderdale in southeastern Florida with 150 passengers on board.
The first two passengers off the plane carried US and Cuban flags as they descended the stairs onto the tarmac, where they symbolically exchanged the banners in a sign of friendship.
The flight was the first of 110 expected daily trips connecting US cities to airports in the Communist-run island, many of them in or near tourism hotspots.
Regular air service was severed during the Cold War, and charter flights have been the only air links since.
John Kerry describes watershed as ‘another step forward’
US Secretary of State John Kerry hailed the watershed.
“The 1st US commercial flight to #Cuba since 1961, just over a year after raising the flag at US Embassy Havana. Another step fwd,” he wrote on Twitter.
US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who was on the JetBlue flight, has plans to meet with local officials, Cuba’s transport ministry said.
The Fort Lauderdale airport was in full party mode near Jet Blue’s departure area — a live salsa band blared Cuban favorites as passengers and bystanders broke into spontaneous dances.
There were cheers, applause and a sea of balloons as boarding for the historic flight got underway.