August 31, 2016 at 2:16 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Commercial flights resume between U.S., Cuba

Havana, Cuba, gay news, Washington Blade

The Havana skyline from the Morro Castle that overlooks the entrance to the city’s harbor. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The first commercial flight between the U.S. and Cuba in more than 50 years landed in the city of Santa Clara on Wednesday.

JetBlue Flight 387 departed from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport at 9:50 a.m. It arrived at Santa Clara’s Abel Santamaría Airport roughly an hour later.

The Sun-Sentinel reported that Capt. Mark Luaces, whose parents were born in Cuba, was the pilot of the historic flight.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes and dozens of journalists were among the passengers. Cuban Ambassador to the U.S. José Ramón Cabañas spoke at a ceremony at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport before the flight departed.

Josefina Vidal, director general of the U.S. division of the Cuban Foreign Ministry, posted pictures of the JetBlue plane on the tarmac at Abel Santamaría Airport to her Twitter page.

Cuba has become an increasingly popular destination for LGBT Americans since the U.S. announced the normalization of relations with the Communist island in late 2014. Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who was born in Havana, is among those who remain highly critical of the Cuban government over its human rights record that includes harassment of independent LGBT activists.

The U.S. and Cuba in February reached a deal that paved the way for commercial flights to resume between the two countries. The Sun-Sentinel reported Silver Airways and American Airlines will begin regularly scheduled flights from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood and Miami International Airports to the Cuban cities of Cienfuegos and Holguín in the coming days.

The Adonia, a 704-passenger cruise ship that Carnival Corp.’s Fathom brand operates, in May became the first cruise ship to sail from the U.S. to Cuba in more than 50 years. Brand g Vacations and Al and Chuck Travel have organized cruises to the island that specifically cater to LGBT travelers.

Americans can legally travel to Cuba on “people-to-people” trips and 11 other categories that do not include tourism.

The Adonia, gay news, Washington Blade

The Adonia, a U.S. cruise ship, docked in Cienfuegos, Cuba, on May 19, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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