Chicago-To-Havana Flights Spark Interest Among Cuban-Americans Here

CHICAGO (CBS) — For decades, Cuba has been a forbidden paradise for most Americans.

But now, changes made by the Obama Administration are making it easier for some to visit the island. And just last week, one company launched a direct flight from Chicago to Havana.

CBS 2’s Mai Martinez reports that convenience has many Cubans here packing their bags for their first trip to the motherland in decades.

At 90-miles Cuban Cafe, owner Alberto Gonzalez is surrounded by the sights, sounds and flavors of Cuba. But he hasn’t seen his birthplace in more than 30 years. His family fled the island in 1980 when he was just 11.

“My restaurant was designed around my childhood memories,” he says.

The Gonzalez family made the U.S. their home, but their thoughts were never far from Cuba, an island which seems almost frozen in time because of the decades-old U.S. embargo.

Now Alberto Gonzalez is preparing to make that dream a reality, thanks in large part to the direct flight from Chicago to Havana now being offered by C & T Charters.

The first flight took off from O’Hare last Friday. Erica Serrano, C & T’s director of Chicago operations, was there.

“When the plane arrived, everyone was clapping,” she says. “People were just extremely excited to really be on this first flight.”

And the calls have been pouring in ever since. But Serrano says many of the callers do not qualify for travel to Cuba.

“You’re not able to travel just to go for any tourist purposes,” she says. “You have to travel with a specific program that follows underneath the rules and regulations given to us by OFAC, Office of Foreign Assets Control.”

Because Gonzalez was born in Cuba, he can visit along with his family, and he plans to in the next couple of months.

“That will be a very happy moment in my life, to be able to go back to my homeland,” he says.

The direct flight from Chicago to Havana leaves O’Hare every Friday at 1 p.m.  Round-trip tickets cost about $1,000. There are also additional fees for other necessary travel documents.

Click here for more information, including travel restrictions, click here.

More from Mai Martinez
  • Jim Hamilton

    Ya don’t suppose they could just keep that a oneway travel do ya?

    I mean Gonzalez and the likes may as well keep their azzes where their thoughts are

    • LOTD

      They let you in, they may not let you out!!!

    • Mary Luque

      Why do people have to be so meanspirited when they read articles like this? Do you know what it is like to be forced to leave your homeland because of political oppression? Or what it is like to come to a new country and work really hard to have what the Gonzalez family has–an extremely successful business? Please stop showing your ignorance and lack of education with comments like yours.

  • LOTD

    Ofcourse it’s NObama’s administration!!! Next, they will be offering vacation packages to tour Iran’s nuke sites!!!

  • Kenneth Newman

    As a gringo, I’d like to visit Cuba. Maybe the Treasury Dept. can find more important work to worry about, and let those who want to visit Raul and Fidel go on their merry way.

  • not from south of I80

    Hey it could be worst. You could be in a wheelchair sitting in front of the screen all day and just waiting for that welfare check.

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