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|Friday, November 02, 2001, updated at 10:03(GMT+8)|
US Carriers Start Direct Flights to CubaA flight of the US flag carrier Continental Airlines arrived in Havana Thursday, opening a direct-flight US-Cuba route.
This opening flight brought to the Caribbean country 87 passengers, among them top executives from Continental and the travel agencies which will handle the charter flights.
Vice director of Cuba's Havanatur travel agency Antonio Diaz told reporters the beginning of these charter flights is aimed at mutual understanding of both countries.
"In a world where a warlike environment prevails and most of the news is related to disasters and defenseless victims, here, Cuban and the U.S. companies send a message of peace to the world," Diaz said.
The first Continental Miami-Havana flight is the culmination of an intense negotiating process, which has involved many parties, he added.
A Boeing 737-300 airliner undertook this flight, with 124 seats, and two daily flights are scheduled for Havana, a number that could be increased to three per day should demand grow.
Other flights will go from Miami to the center-southern city of Cienfuegos and to the eastern city of Camaguey with two flights a week. Continental airliners will also fly the New York-Havana mission every Saturday.
Continental takes up 75 percent of the bilateral air market. American Airlines also undertakes five daily flights to the eastern cities of Holguin and Santiagon, and United Airlines and Taca have one Miami-Havana flight and one Los Angeles-Havana flight respectively.
The U.S. authorities, which during the last 40 years keep a stern economic blockade on Cuba, bans its citizens from spending money in the island. The policy limits the flow of tourists, although it allows students, journalists, artists and athletes to go to Cuba.
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