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Commercial flight from U.S. to Cuba takes off for first time in decades

By Andrew V. Pestano
A view from the roof of the Iberostar Parque Central Hotel in Havana, Cuba, on March 22, 2016. JetBlue on Wednesday, August 31, 2016, hosted the first commercial flight from the United States to Cuba after the normalization of once-frozen relations. Photo by U.S. Department of State/UPI
A view from the roof of the Iberostar Parque Central Hotel in Havana, Cuba, on March 22, 2016. JetBlue on Wednesday, August 31, 2016, hosted the first commercial flight from the United States to Cuba after the normalization of once-frozen relations. Photo by U.S. Department of State/UPI | License Photo

MIAMI, Aug. 31 (UPI) -- JetBlue on Wednesday hosted the first commercial flight from the United States to Cuba after the normalization of once-frozen relations.

"We wanted to be first to Cuba and our crew members wanted to be first in Cuba," JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes said. "This is going to make travel not only easier, but much more affordable, and that's going to encourage many more people to travel."

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JetBlue Flight 387 became the first scheduled commercial flight to Cuba from the United States since 1961.

"I think it's going to be an emotional moment for all of us," First Officer Frank Barreras, who will co-pilot the flight to Santa Clara, told CBS News. "I never thought this day would come in my lifetime. It's an amazing, amazing time."

Barreras' father was a teenager when he fled Cuba on one of the last commercial flights to the United States decades ago.

Though an embargo against Cuba remains in place, improved relations between Washington, D.C., and Havana have allowed businesses to venture into the once-isolated island nation.

"We just cut the ribbon on our first flight to Cuba!" JetBlue wrote on Twitter.

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