Sunday, September 18, 2011

1st Fort Lauderdale-Cuba charter flight takes off

1st Fort Lauderdale-Cuba charter flight takes off
The Associated Press

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Wearing straw hats and shaking maracas,
passengers on the first charter flight from Fort Lauderdale to Cuba in
decades took off Saturday.

The terminal at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport quickly
took on a festive air as excited passengers checked bags stuffed with
canned food and other goods to deliver to family and friends on the
island. They were serenaded with Cuban music, and given guava pastries
and straw hats as they waited to board.

"It's a historic day," Vivian Mannerud, president of Airline Brokers
Company, the charter operator that organized the flight, told the South
Florida Sun-Sentinel. "For Cuban-Americans who live from Hialeah to West
Palm Beach, this is an easier ride."

The one-hour flight to Havana's Jose Marti Airport departed from Fort
Lauderdale for the first time since 1987. Under the Obama
administration, several new charter destinations have been approved by
the U.S. and Cuban governments. Flights from Tampa to Havana began for
the first time in nearly 50 years on Sept. 9.

The flight was operated by a JetBlue airplane and crew. Airline Brokers
Company will be offering the flight every Saturday, as well as a return

One hundred ten passengers were aboard the inaugural trip.

Cuban-American truck driver Julio Delgado was among them. He was
traveling to visit his 84-year-old mother, who recently broke her hip.
Inside his two large suitcases: powdered milk, canned fish and chicken,
and sneakers.

"To spend time with family," Delgado told the Sun-Sentinel, "that's the
most important thing there is."

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