First U.S. flight to Cuba since 1961 lands safely

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Water cannons are deployed as Jet Blue Flight 387 departs from Fort Lauderdale International Airport, for Santa Clara, Cuba, inaugurating the first regularly scheduled commercial flight between the U.S. and Cuba in more than half a century, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

Water cannons are deployed as Jet Blue Flight 387 departs from Fort Lauderdale International Airport, for Santa Clara, Cuba, inaugurating the first regularly scheduled commercial flight between the U.S. and Cuba in more than half a century, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

The first U.S. commercial flight to Cuba in more than a half of a century took off Wednesday amid much fanfare.

After a ribbon cutting ceremony and a performance from a Cuban band, 150 passengers boarded the JetBlue flight flying from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Santa Clara, Cuba. The flight later landed safely in Cuba, USA Today reported.

It is the first of 300 direct flights expected each week between both the two countries, according to Associated Press.

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The U.S. implemented a trade embargo on Cuba in 1960, banning American citizens from traveling to the island nation. The last flight to Cuba took off soon after in 1961.

Secretary of State, John Kerry called Wednesday’s historic flight “another step forward.”

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Under the Obama administration, the U.S. has begun to normalize relations with Cuba starting with political talks back in 2014.

Since then, the U.S. has restored diplomatic relations and reopened the U.S. embassy in Cuba. In March, President Barack Obama also became the first president to visit Cuba since 1928.

But the trade embargo, which only Congress can lift, remains in place, and travel to Cuba is still limited.

Travelers must qualify for one of the U.S. government’s 12 approved reasons for visiting Cuba, including educational trips, journalism and family visits.

Six airlines are expected to begin flights to the Cuban capital Havana by the end of the year, departing from New York, Los Angeles and Houston.

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