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First flight to Cuba marks piece of history

  • 12-Sep-11 09:24
  • Cuba
  • The Ledger

American travellers taking Cuba holidays experienced a historic moment yesterday as the first Havana-bound airplane took off from Tampa International Airport for the first time in over 50 years, following an ease in travel restrictions.

First flight to Cuba marks piece of history

Travellers onboard a flight to Cuba yesterday experienced a piece of history as the plane departed Tampa International Airport and made its way to Havana for the first time in over 50 years.

American travellers will now be able to take Cuba holidays following the eased restrictions announced by President Obama earlier this year. The U.S residents will be able to legally travel to the communist country for the first time in decades if they are visiting for cultural, educational, academic, religious or professional purposes.

Cuban-Americans are also free to visit to their homeland as often as they like following changes to the law last year and the new flights from Tampa International Airport provides a short 75-minute journey to the Caribbean island.

First-officer Robb Williams from Lakeland was the pilot of the inaugural flight of the Boeing 737 on Thursday 8th August, 2011. Prior to the flight, he said: "I feel honoured. I grew up here in the Tampa Bay area and I just feel honoured to be a part of (the flight)."

Until now, the United States government restricted the limited Cuba travel to three airports: Miami, New York and Los Angeles. The changes in the law have also allowed several additional airports in the U.S to provide charter flights to Cuba. These include Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta; O'Hare in Chicago; Baltimore in Maryland; Dallas/Fort Worth in Texas; New Orleans in Louisiana; Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania; and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The first charter flight was on a plane owned by Sky King Inc., a company that is partnered with Xael Charters Inc. who will be providing the flights for U.S travellers taking holidays in Cuba under the "people to people" scheme ot just visiting family.

Eddie Levy, co-owner of Xael said: "This is very good for the Tampa area," Levy said. "Americans from anywhere in the U.S. can choose to fly from Tampa. We are very honoured to have a part in this very historic event."

Xael Charter will operate one flight a week to Cuba with the hope of increasing the service during the busy holiday season. The new flights are expecting to bring an influx of visitors to the island’s attractions, historic sites, beaches, restaurants and Cuba hotels.

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