Direct commercial travel between the U.S. and Cuba came to a screeching halt in 1963, at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis. There hasn’t been a single commercial flight between the two nations in the 53 intervening years, until today. A JetBlue flight, with Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx on board, took off in Fort Lauderdale, FL, and landed in Santa Clara, Cuba, marking the end of the travel embargo.
The trade embargo, however, remains firmly in place, as do the strict restrictions governing which American citizens can actually go to Cuba. Travel to the island is still unavailable to mere tourists. To qualify for a license, you have to meet one of these twelve criteria:
Family visits; official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations; journalistic activity; professional research and professional meetings; educational activities; religious activities; public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; support for the Cuban people; humanitarian projects; activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials; and certain authorized export transactions.
Your best bet? Register for a golf tournament. (No, seriously.)
The U.S.—Cuba flight is the latest in the warming of a tense relationship during the Obama presidency. Airlines are currently seeking permission for their own flights, and Foxx should authorize the first set of flights later today. Per Politico, travel to Cuba will be possible on eight different airlines for “less than the price of many domestic tickets.” JetBlue is offering the purchase of Cuban tourist visas, as well as coverage for the separate health insurance mandated by the Cuban government.
U.S. air marshals will be present on the flights.