MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Celebrations were going on at Gate D-30 ahead of the first commercial flight leaving to Havana, Cuba from Miami International Airport.
The American Airlines flight took off around 7:30 a.m. Monday.
They have had multiple flights going to other Cuban provinces since September but this was the first flight that will land in Havana.
Passengers Robert Zamora and Steve Robertson, both from California, have been looking forward to visiting the island for a long time.
“We’re baseball coaches,” said Zamora. “Our bags are full of baseballs and bats and we’re going to go and find some little leaguers and play some catch and enjoy the people.”
“We have mixed feelings about it because you know we’ve been reading the coverage about little Havana in Miami,” said Robertson. “We’re going there with an open mind; not to take any sides but to experience what’s going on.”
While the trip has been planned for a couple months, the sudden passing of Castro will likely have an impact on some of their plans.
“We’re really surprised of all the commotion and of course of Castro’s passing so we didn’t expect this. We’re happy in some respects but some of the things we want to do in Cuba, they sound like they might be suspended,” said Robertson.
“It’s a happy country. We knew that. We’re coming to have a good time and we just came at a very, very sad time for people so we’re going to be respectful but we’re kind of, we don’t know what to expect when we get over there,” added Zamora.
Monday morning’s flight is part of American Airline’s launch of regularly scheduled commercial flights to Havana, Cuba. By Wednesday, they will be operating at full schedule with four flights daily out of Miami into Havana.
The availability of flights to Havana certainly makes it easier for travelers to visit the island, but these first flights come at a unique time following the passing of Castro.
“Certainly for people who are directly connected to Cuba there is mixed emotion,” said Victor Mendez, Deputy Secretary for the U.S. Department of Transportation. “But I think what I’ve heard here this morning, people are generally very happy about finally being able to connect into Havana.”
The airline celebrated the historic flight with an inaugural gate event and a water cannon salute on the runway as the airplane prepared to take off.