LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The inaugural charter flight between Los Angeles International Airport and Havana, Cuba, departed Saturday, creating the first West Coast link between the cities in light of improved U.S.-Cuban political relations.
The American Airlines flight departed at 12:30 p.m., following a ceremony attended by Mayor Eric Garcetti and officials with the airline and LAX.
The flight "shows how we continue to expand our reach by offering new routes and services our customers want," Art Torno, senior vice president of American Airlines, said in August when the flight was announced. "We stand ready to offer scheduled service as soon as the United States and Cuba allow commercial flights."
The five-hour non-stop charter flights will be sold by Cuba Travel Services and operate on Saturdays with a Boeing 737. The airline will also offer a Saturday flight between Miami and Havana.
American has offered charter flights to Cuba since 1991, but only from the East Coast. The airline expects to operate about 1,200 charter flights to Cuba this year.
CBS2' Greg Mills was at LAX to speak to passengers pumped about making the inaugural flight.
"Yes! Isn't this exciting," said Illeana Gavina of Pasadena. She was born in Cuba, raised in the US.
She was anxious to see what the island has to offer.
"The island is gorgeous," she said, "the culture, the people, the music, the food."
He reported that most flights leaving LAX don't start off with people cheering, or music, free food or a welcome from the Mayor Garcetti.
No one needed to be told of the flight's special significance.
Maria Skylar was thrilled to also be traveling with her mother and her daughter -- three generations making what she called "the trip of a lifetime."
Information on the LAX-Cuba flight is available at www.CubaTravelServices.com. Information about travel restrictions to Cuba is available on the airline's website at www.aa.com/visitcuba.
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