JetBlue on Wednesday made history when it touched down in Santa Clara, Cuba, becoming the first U.S. airline to operate a commercial flight between the two countries in more 50 years. JetBlue flight 387 from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) landed at Abel Santamaría Airport (SNU) just before 11 a.m. local time.
The flight ushers in a new era of affordable and convenient air travel to Cuba, and comes after months of collaboration between JetBlue, U.S. officials, Cuban officials and business partners to resume air service between the two countries.
“We are proud to be the first U.S. airline to serve Cuba, but our focus is on being the best airline serving Cuba,” said Robin Hayes, president and chief executive officer, JetBlue. “This historic flight symbolizes our long-term commitment to provide affordable, award-winning service between Cuba and the U.S. For the first time in decades, families separated by only a short stretch of water can easily and affordably visit a loved one, attend an important occasion or visit a special place – and the role we play speaks directly to our mission of inspiring humanity.”
Hayes, along with JetBlue leadership, government officials from both nations, dignitaries and the first customers, were welcomed in Santa Clara with a water canon salute and a celebration by Cuban officials at the airport located some 160 miles east of Havana.
The occasion marked not only the first U.S. scheduled commercial flight since the 1960s, but also the first time an American carrier has operated a scheduled commercial jetliner between the U.S. and Cuba, as U.S. airlines only flew propeller-powered aircraft to the Caribbean island before the embargo began.
“We commend the incredible and tireless work of both U.S. and Cuban officials for making today possible. We extend our deep appreciation to the Ministry of Transportation, IACC, and the Santa Clara Airport for entrusting us to operate this historic flight and look forward to our long-term partnership as we continue to grow our presence in Cuba. And in the U.S., we congratulate Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and the Department of Transportation, Secretary John Kerry and the Department of State, Secretary Penny Pritzker and the Department of Commerce, and the Obama Administration for their leadership in achieving this historic milestone,” said JetBlue CEO Hayes.
“Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport is proud to be the first airport in the United States to offer regularly scheduled commercial service to Cuba,” said Mark Gale, CEO/Director, Broward County Aviation Department. “We look forward to the continued partnership with JetBlue as they continue their growth and success here in Broward County.”