JetBlue’s inaugural flight took off Tuesday with 176 passengers from Orlando International Airport to Havana’s José Martí International Airport.
Air travel between Cuba and the United States has been embargoed since 1960. Travel restrictions were lifted in 2014 allowing 12 permissible reasons to travel to Cuba, including humanitarian projects, research, business, educational and religious trips.
“Opening the doors of cultural and economic opportunity are key benefits of air travel,” says Frank Kruppenbacher, Chairman of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority. “JetBlue’s direct service to Cuba from Orlando provides our passengers and our community with a unique opportunity to build lasting bonds between our two cultures.”
The Orlando nonstop flight was one of three launched this week by JetBlue, including Monday’s flight from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and service from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Wednesday.
Orlando is now the fourth city in Florida to offer commercial flights to Cuba, joining Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Tampa. Atlanta; Charlotte, North Carolina; Houston; Los Angeles; Newark, New Jersey and New York City also offer flights to Havana. Orlando began charter flights to the Cuban capital five months ago.
Cuban government-required health insurance coverage and an affidavit confirming one of the 12 approved travel reasons are included in the JetBlue ticket purchase. Customers must also qualify for a Cuban Tourist Visa, which can be purchased upon check-in at the airport. A round-trip flight from Orlando to Havana starts at $108.
“We commend the work of both U.S. and Cuban officials for making today possible,” said Robin Hayes, JetBlue president. “JetBlue didn’t even exist when commercial service ended, and now we are a leading airline in Cuba and the Caribbean.”