Delta Air Lines has been preparing for the launch of flights to Havana Dec. 1 as part of a re-opening of scheduled airline flights to Cuba.
It’s yet to be seen how the death of Fidel Castro will affect travel to Cuba, but the launch of scheduled flights by Delta and other airlines this year is easing the path for travelers.
Atlanta-based Delta is launching its flights to Havana from Atlanta, Miami and New York on Thursday.
The U.S. Department of Transportation had approved flights to Havana by Delta and other airlines in August. The Obama Administration struck a U.S.-Cuba deal earlier this year that opened the door for the first scheduled airline flights to Cuba in more than 50 years.
Delta was one of eight airlines that gained approval for routes to Havana, with other carriers launching flights from other U.S. cities.
However, U.S. visitors to Cuba must still qualify under one of 12 categories authorized by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.
Delta in recent years has operated some charter flights to Cuba, but discontinued them in 2012 amid weak demand from travelers.
The last time Delta operated scheduled service to Cuba was 1961, when it suspended flights from New Orleans to Havana.
Over the last several years, some Georgians have already made the trip to Cuba, while others are eager to go.
Wandi Steward, the program director for Outward Bound Atlanta, spent 15 days in Cuba in 2015 as part of an educational mission with California’s Woodbury University. The group was there to document the world renowned Havana Biennial arts festival.
“It was pretty incredible,” said Steward, who lives in Muscogee County. “We were not typical tourists and we got to see a lot behind the scenes. I got a chance to see the how the rationing works. I’m not sure if a lot of tourists get that opportunity.”
“Everybody I know wants to go to Cuba. I’m glad I went there before it changes dramatically. There were a lot of Europeans on the street and a lot less Americans but you can see how the American world has really influenced them. There’s an interest in our perceived success and material wealth.”
AJC reporter Shelia Poole contributed to this article.