First com­mer­cial US-Ha­vana flight lands as coun­try mourns Cas­tro’s pass­ing

Jamaica Gleaner - - INTERNATIONAL NEWS -

HA­VANA (AP): PAS­SEN­GERS ERUPTED into ap­plause as the first com­mer­cial flight from the United States to Ha­vana in more than 50 years landed in Cuba, ar­riv­ing as the is­land be­gins week-long memo­rial ser­vices for rev­o­lu­tion­ary leader Fidel Cas­tro.

Cubans saluted the packed Amer­i­can Air­lines flight by spray­ing wa­ter from firetrucks above the plane as it taxed along the run­way at José Martí In­ter­na­tional Air­port in honour of the in­au­gu­ral voy­age.

“It was very emo­tional for me,” said Jonathan Gon­za­lez, 31, a Cuban-Amer­i­can born in Miami who said it was his third time vis­it­ing the is­land.

Pas­sen­gers wear­ing straw hats pro­vided by Amer­i­can Air­lines, with the word ‘Cuba’ on the back, were greeted with wel­come signs in var­i­ous lan­guages — but no mu­sic. The vis­i­tors ar­rived at the same time that tens of thou­sands be­gan pay­ing homage to Cas­tro in Ha­vana and a state-sanc­tioned ban on live mu­sic has hushed the cap­i­tal’s usu­ally fes­tive nightlife.

IM­POR­TANT DE­VEL­OP­MENTS

“I’m in­trigued to see how the city is af­ter the death of Fidel Cas­tro,” said Tamara Cara, 45, an ed­u­ca­tion pro­fes­sional from Puerto Rico on the flight.

For years, US trav­ellers to the is­land have had to go through bur­den­some char­ter flights with four-hour check­ins. The US and Cuba signed a deal in Fe­bru­ary to re­store com­mer­cial air traf­fic, mark­ing one of the most im­por­tant de­vel­op­ments since Pres­i­dents Raúl Cas­tro and Barack Obama an­nounced they would re­store diplo­matic re­la­tions nearly two years ago.

Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump has de­nounced Obama’s moves Fidel Cas­tro salutes dur­ing a speech in Ha­vana, Cuba, in May 20, 2005.

to open re­la­tions with the is­land. Ad­viser Kellyanne Con­way told ABC’s This Week on Sun­day that noth­ing has been de­cided on Cuba, but said the US is al­low­ing com­mer­cial air­craft to do busi­ness with a re­pres­sive Cuban gov­ern­ment and mil­i­tary.

Sev­eral other flights from the US also were sched­uled to ar­rive on Mon­day.

Amer­i­can Air­lines held a small cel­e­bra­tion for the pas­sen­gers in Miami be­fore de­part­ing, serv­ing typ­i­cal Cuban sta­ples like cro­quettes and cheese-filled pas­tries.

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