Hello Havana: Direct Flights Resume From LAX

Direct flights from Los Angeles to Havana resumed Tuesday, two months after President Barack Obama decided to ease travel restrictions to Cuba.

Cuba Travel Services will offer a flight every Tuesday. The Boeing 737-800 jetliner operated by Continental Airlines will take off from LAX at 11 a.m.

The first flight left Los Angeles today with about 50 people on board.

"We are excited to resume the non-stop flights out of LAX to Havana that were in such high demand prior to the Bush administration's restrictions imposed on Cuban-Americans that limited their ability to visit with their families in Cuba," said Cuba Travel Services' general manager, Michael Zuccato.

Most travel from the United States to Cuba has been banned since an embargo was imposed in 1962, but Cuban-Americans have been allowed to visit under various policies since then.

Nearly five years ago, however, President George W. Bush's administration limited their trips to once every three years, and narrowed definitions of who could accompany them as family members. Obama repealed those restrictions in April.

Cuba Travel hopes to attract some of the 100,000 Cuban-Americans living in California -- 85,000 of them in the Los Angeles area alone.

The company also hopes to serve journalists, government officials and researchers cleared for travel to Cuba, as well as sports teams, religious organizations, educational facilities and other groups.

Cuba Travel Services was formed by a group of Los Angeles business professionals to facilitate a better understanding between the United States and Cuba, according to Zuccato.

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