HAVANA — In an eerie coincidence, the an initial regularly reserved U.S. Advertising flight to Cuba"s capital because 1961 landed Monday gradually for the start of formal mourning for the man that played a significant role in the suspension of that waiting route.
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Some passenger on historic American Airlines trip 17 said castle did not make the journey to pay respects come longtime Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who passed away Friday at age 90.
For Roberto Gomez, it intended he could attend the funeral that his 89-year-old mother.
Air travel between the two countries used to be done specifically by tightly regulation charter suppliers that made booking a trip cumbersome, complicated and expensive. A round-trip flight to Cuba native Miami could price up to $600.
As part of the normalization of relations initiated by chairman Obama and Cuban chairman Raúl Castro in December 2014, U.S. Airlines were granted the rights to run regular flights that might be quickly booked online and cost much less — Monday"s round-trip trip from Miami was $239.
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JetBlue flew the first U.S. Commercial flight to Cuba in August, a short hop from fort Lauderdale to the Cuban city the Santa Clara. Top top Monday, Flight 17 became the very first to floor in Havana, a 45-minute flight carrying 147 passengers wearing straw fedora hats — gifts from American Airlines.
One the those to be Gomez, 61, a health care worker that left his native Cuba 10 years ago and currently lives in the Miami suburb that Homestead. Together his mother acquired sicker over the years, he ended up being terrified he"d miss out on her funeral due to the fact that of the inefficient charter device that used to it is in the only travel option. Cubans usually bury your dead within 24 hours, therefore he felt the wouldn"t make it in time due to all the call calls and also paperwork necessary to species those flights.
He obtained the speak to that she died Sunday and immediately started the process. Then his nephew told him around the new flights. They confirm online, booked the flight and landed in Havana at 8:25 a.m. Monday — in many of time for the 4 p.m. funeral.
"I had actually no idea what to be going on," Gomez said as that sat through his wife and also sister in the boarding area at Miami international Airport surrounded by red, white and also blue balloons and also American public official hosting a news conference. "This was really a blessing," the said.
Others on plank knew precisely what was happening. Daniel and also Beth Lewis the Cape Cod, Mass., were identified to be on the very first Havana flight so they can finally tourism the island they"d dreamed of because that so long.
"I"ve wanted to execute this all my life," she said.
Daniel Lewis, 61, an architect, stated he was greatly interested in learning about Cuba"s architecture and interacting v its people. He stated the truth that he"ll most likely run right into memorial solutions for Fidel Castro was simply a surprising coincidence.
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"We absolutely didn"t arrangement that part," he said.
Cubans space planning a main of memorial services for Castro. A rally honoring the so late leader is plan in Havana on Tuesday. Numerous thousands of Cubans bade farewell come him Monday, payment tribute prior to images the the leader together a young revolutionary. Lines extended for hours external the Plaza that the revolution where Castro had provided speeches to pendant after he seized power.
Tribute sites were set up in thousands of spots across Cuba together the government urged people to reaffirm their id in a socialist, single-party system.
Kevin Mase, the captain of Monday"s flight, claimed it to be an honor to helm the historic flight. But he"s to be been flying charter flights to Cuba because that years, definition there was only one tangible difference Monday.
"We got a jet bridge this time," that said.
Charter flights native the U.S. Had constantly deplaned in ~ a little terminal no bigger 보다 an airplane hangar. Passenger boarded those plane on a staircase and walked come the small terminal.
As part of the new aviation agreement, U.S. Flights have the right to now usage the main global terminal in ~ José Martí worldwide Airport, complete with jetway privileges.
Monday"s flight will shortly be adhered to by various other U.S. Carriers. Seven various other airlines have actually been granted courses to Havana and also will start operating castle in the coming weeks.
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Howard Kass, vice chairman of regulatory affairs because that American Airlines, stated it took countless months that negotiations with the U.S. Transport Department and its Cuban equivalent to with this point.