Alaska Airlines launched its Los Angeles-Havana service Jan. 5, bringing regularly scheduled commercial passenger flights from the US west coast to Cuba for the first time. Alaska operated the flight using a Boeing 737-900ER.

Fifty political, business and cultural leaders from California and Washington state were among the passengers on the inaugural flight from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), traveling as part of an educational and trade mission.

“We sometimes overlook the fact that air travel holds tremendous power to connect people and overcome boundaries,” Alaska Airlines SVP-communications and external relations Joe Sprague said. “This new west coast service is another historic step in opening up relations between our two countries.”

While Alaska’s direct service to Havana operates out of LAX, the airline is also operating a connecting service to LAX out of Seattle, Alaska Airline’s home base.

American Airlines and JetBlue launched the first commercial passenger flights between the US and Havana Nov. 28, 2016. United Airlines began Newark-Havana service Nov. 29, and Delta Air Lines, Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines all began Havana service Dec. 1. Southwest Airlines began its Havana service from Fort Lauderdale and Tampa Dec. 12.

The US announced the resumption of commercial passenger airline service to Cuba following the signing of an agreement between the two countries Feb. 17. The first commercial flights between the US mainland and Cuba began Aug. 31, with a JetBlue flight from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Santa Clara, Cuba. That same day the US Department of Transportation awarded eight US airlines service routes to Havana.

Mark Nensel mark.nensel@penton.com