MIAMI (CBSMiami) – An historic flight from Fort Lauderdale to Cuba will touch down on Wednesday, marking the first commercial flight between the U.S. and the island in over a half-century.
The Jet Blue flight is scheduled to land in the Cuban city of Santa Clara, the latest step in normalizing relations that earlier this year included a visit by President Barack Obama and the first U.S. cruise to the island in decades.
The first flight leaves Fort Lauderdale at 9:45 a.m.
For now, flights will run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and cost $99 one-way.
Daily flights to Santa Clara are expected to start on October 1st.
In November, flights will also land at two other Cuban airports; Camagüey-Ignacio Agramonte Airport beginning Nov. 3, and Holguín-Frank País Airport beginning Nov. 10.
But before you book a flight to Cuba, remember that Congress has not lifted a trade embargo that prohibits U.S. citizens from visiting Cuba as tourists.
The Obama administration has approved 12 categories of exceptions to the ban ranging from cultural, religious and educational travel to business and visiting family.
That means JetBlue’s initial flights will mainly carry Cuban-Americans visiting relatives or other U.S. citizens interested in seeing cultural sites.
Travelers also must contact the Cuban embassy in Washington, D.C., to find out which visa they will need. JetBlue will offer Cuban tourist visas for purchase at its gates before each flight.
Eventually, up to 25 flights a day by various carriers will connect the United States and the Cuban provinces, with another 20 to Havana, under an agreement reached in December 2014.
American Airlines will join JetBlue with its own commercial service to the Cuban cities of Cienfuegos and Holguín kicking off Sept. 7. Silver Airways will begin its regularly scheduled service to Cuba beginning with flights to Santa Clara on Sept. 1.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has given tentative approval for eight airlines to fly into José Martí International Airport in Havana. However, those selections have not been finalized. Final U.S. approval should be announced by the end of the year, and then the selections also must be approved by the Cuban government.
Until then, visitors can travel to the island’s capital via a variety of methods, including taxi or bus.