The first U.S. commercial flight to Cuba in more than 50 years landed in Santa Clara on Wednesday morning, and passengers were greeted with a ceremonial water cannon shower from Cuban fire engines.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx was first among the 150 passengers to disembark, and presented Cuban officials with a model airplane. Santa Clara city officials gave him a painting of the city.
A JetBlue Airbus 320 plane made the 51-minute flight, which began at 9:45 a.m. at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida. Cuban music, fresh guava pastries and dignitaries created a festive atmosphere before takeoff.
JetBlue plans to offer up to seven daily flights to Cuba starting this fall, although most of them initially will go to cities other than Havana, such as Holguin and Camaguey. Nine other U.S. airlines will offer their own routes, which could result in up to 100 daily flights to Cuba.
The flights will originate from Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, New York City and seven other U.S. cities. One-way fares will start at $99.
Silver Airways, a commuter airline, on Thursday will begin offering three weekly flights to Santa Clara, and later this fall will begin flights to Cienfuegos, Santiago de Cuba, Cayo Coco, Varadero, Cayo Largo and Manzanillo. American Airlines will begin service to Cienfuegos and Hoguin on Sept. 7, and will add flights to three more Cuban cities later this year.
Southwest Airlines, Frontier Airlines and Sun Country Airlines also have been approved for flights.
The Department of Transportation is expected to announce on Wednesday which U.S. airlines will be able to fly to Havana.
The United States and Cuba re-established diplomatic relations in December 2014, and since then many changes have occurred, including the reopening of embassies in Washington, DC, and Havana, and U.S. businesses signing new deals with Cuba.
The U.S. still maintains an economic embargo on Cuba, however, and Americans are not allowed to take leisure trips there: They must affirm that their visit falls under one of 12 categories, such as educational, religious and humanitarian projects.