Tag Archive for: Orlando

Orlando International Airport, monorailHAVANA, July 7  When Elisabeth Rodriguez and her mom landed in Cuba on Wednesday, was the first time in a year seeing most of her extended family.

The 16-year-old was one of about 50 people to board one of the first flights to the island nation from the Orlando International Airport.

“It’s so good,” said Rodriguez. “Now you don’t have to travel 4 hours to get to Miami.”

Until Orlando’s flight opened, Rodriguez and her family would make the long haul to Miami to catch a flight to visit family there.

A new charter service provided by Island Travel and Tours kicked off Wednesday with a 2:15 p.m. flight to Havana.

The new service offers twice weekly flights between Orlando and Cuba, including a returning flight Sunday afternoon.

Bill Hauf, president of Island Travel and Tours, said the first few flights will only have a few passengers, but he expects demand to increase once the service feels routine.

“There’s so much enthusiasm,” said Hauf, who was also taking the flight down. “So much excitement.”

Hauf said he expects most of Sunday’s flight back to Orlando to be passengers who flew down Wednesday.

While the company initially filed plans and were approved for a year of charter service to Cuba, Hauf said he’s already planning to extend that contract.

“We’re already getting reservations for next year,” he said.

Travel to Cuba, located a 90-minute nonstop flight away, only became an option after President Barack Obama lifted travel restrictions to the country.

Those planning to visit are required to fit into 12 defined categories, including journalism, education and humanitarian efforts.

Hauf’s service was the first to announce travel from Orlando, but wasn’t the first company to fly there.

After a sudden and quick request for approval, Miami-based Gulfstream Air Charters, another tour operator, had the first flight to Havana on June 10.