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Flights to Havana to initially cost about $150 round trip

Southwest’s ticket prices are good through Nov. 20.
Southwest’s ticket prices are good through Nov. 20.
Published Oct. 14, 2016

Southwest Airlines entered the Tampa-to-Havana market Thursday.

The initial flight takes off Dec. 12. It will be the first commercial flight in more than five decades between the two cities.

Southwest is now selling tickets for $59 for a one-way direct flight from Tampa International Airport to Havana's José Martí International Airport.

Online booking shows a higher return cost, adding up to about $150 for the round trip.

Ticket prices are good through Nov. 20 and the trip must be made before April 24.

Under U.S. law, American citizens are banned from visiting Cuba for tourism. The trip must fall under one of 12 categories, including educational, professional or family visits.

Family was the focus of the news conference announcing the flights Thursday morning at Tampa International Airport.

"This is good news for Tampa Bay area families who want to connect with their relatives on the island of Cuba," U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor said at the event.

She noted that five years ago, Tampa Bay area residents with relatives in Cuba had to travel to Miami for flights to the island.

It was in 2011 that charter flights to Cuba were introduced at Tampa International.

Since then, more than 300,000 passengers have traveled to and from Cuba on those flights, said airport CEO Joe Lopano. He credited the bay area's Cuban-American population, the third largest in the nation, with much of that success.

Even Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who has been openly against engagement with Cuba, expressed excitement over what these new commercial flights to Havana mean to the local Cuban-American population.

He didn't attend the event, but Tampa public affairs director Ashley Bauman told the Tampa Bay Times that Buckhorn "is in support of any opportunity for Cuban families to reunite."

Contact Paul Guzzo at pguzzo@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3394. Follow @PGuzzoTimes.