Inaugural flight from Charlotte to Cuba opens 'global gateway' - | WBTV Charlotte

Inaugural flight from Charlotte to Cuba opens 'global gateway'

(Mark Davenport | WBTV) (Mark Davenport | WBTV)

With the snip of a ribbon, the overhead seat belt sign went off and travelers from Charlotte are now free to roam about the Caribbean. 

"I never really thought there would be an opportunity to have an open door to that culture and to that beautiful island," said Rocio Gonzalez, Executive Director of the Charlotte Latin Chamber of Commerce. 

The inaugural American Airlines flight from Charlotte to Havana, Cuba took off Wednesday morning.  

Travelers like Kaprice Nelson were treated with a complete Cuban celebration. 

"I'm honored to be apart of history," said Nelson before boarding. 

The first Charlotte passengers to Cuba were given straw hats, chocolate Cuban cigars and memories they won't soon forget.

"This is a happy emotional time," said a man named Roberto. "No sadness here. I've got my tears but it's all good."

Charlotte is home for Roberto and his grandmother Mirian Rodriguez. She is going back to Cuba to see family. Roberto won't be traveling with her this time but he still couldn't contain his feelings.

"I haven't seen the Cuban side of my family for over 18 years," he said. "But now with this... This is going to change everything."

The trip will also be special for the man piloting this first flight from Charlotte.

"It's probably one of the proudest moments of my life," said Domingo Alfaro. "Probably my career."

Alfaro has spent 30 years with American Airlines. The pilot has lived Huntersville and was born in Cuba. 

"I know that I will probably be peeking out on the window on approach and landing to try and take in as much as

I can,"he said. 

Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts spoke at a brief ceremony before the flight took off and also cut the ribbon at the gate. 

The mayor said Charlotte's Cuban population has doubled in recent years putting the number close to 2,600 one time Cuban residents. 

She called the flight to Cuba to opening of a 'global gateway" to and from Charlotte. 

The plane traveled beneath two Charlotte Fire water cannons before taking off for Cuba. 

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