JetBlue today 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.”
In addition to Santa Clara, JetBlue will launch service between Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood and Camagüey – Ignacio Agramonte Airport (CMW) on November 3, and Holguín – Frank País Airport (HOG) on November 10, subject to receipt of government operating authority.
JetBlue tentatively plans to serve the Cuban capital of Havana with daily flights between Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood, New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and Orlando International Airport (MCO) (a). With up to seven daily flights between the U.S. and Cuba JetBlue is committed to investing in and growing new Cuban markets.
When service to Cuba begins, JetBlue will operate in 22 countries and the new routes will further grow JetBlue’s presence in the Caribbean and at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood where the airline is the largest carrier, flying to more than 50 nonstop destinations by the end of the year. Customers across the JetBlue network may also take advantage of JetBlue’s convenient connections to and from Cuba through its South Florida focus city.
JetBlue’s commercial service follows nearly five years of successful charter service operating multiple routes between Cuban markets and U.S. cities. In that time, JetBlue has built strong relationships with airport authorities and worked closely together to make the launch of commercial service possible.
Flights between the U.S. and Santa Clara, Camagüey and Holguín will be operated on JetBlue’s Airbus A320.