First U.S. com­mer­cial flight lands as coun­try mourns

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - BUSINESS - By Anne-Marie Gar­cia and Chris­tine Ar­mario

HA­VANA » 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 week­long me­mo­rial ser­vices for rev­o­lu­tion­ary leader Fidel Cas­tro.

Cubans saluted the packed Amer­i­can Air­lines flight by spray­ing wa­ter from firetrucks above the plane as it tax­ied along the run­way at Jose Marti In­ter­na­tional Air­port in honor 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 wel-

come signs in var­i­ous lan­guages — but no mu­sic. The vis­i­tors are ar­riv­ing at the same time that tens of thou­sands be­gin pay­ing homage to Cas­tro in Ha­vana and a state-sanc­tioned ban on live mu­sic has hushed the cap­i­tal’s usu­ally fes­tive nightlife.

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

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