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First flight from Charlotte to Havana still on for Wednesday, but without some VIP passengers

Wednesday morning’s inaugural American Airlines flight between Charlotte and Havana remains a go – but not for city and county officials, and about 20 others who were scheduled to be onboard.

American Airlines had arranged a two-night “cultural excursion” in Havana for Charlotte officials, travel agents and members of the media who were taking the first flight.

But Saturday’s death of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro put the Caribbean country into nine days of mourning, forcing the cancellation of the trip. Many of the places the group was scheduled to visit will be closed, said Loreto DeRubeis with Marazul Charters, which was arranging the two-day trip.

Wednesday’s flight is due to leave Charlotte-Douglas International Airport bound for Havana’s José Martí International Airport at 8:50 a.m., after a ceremony that will include Cuban pastries, chocolate cigars and Cuban music in the airport terminal.

Slated to be on board the 128-seat Airbus 319 were city council members Vi Lyles, Julie Eiselt, Al Austin and Patsy Kinsey. City officials said the four paid their own way for the trip; while the city was picking up a $1,904 tab for Charlotte Aviation Director Brent Cagle to go.

Other officials who had planned to be on the excursion: County commissioner Trevor Fuller and county manager Dena Diorio, both trips paid for by the county; commissioner Dumont Clark, paying his own way; and Tom Murray, CEO of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, which was paying for his trip (it’s a public organization supported by hotel/motel/restaurant/bar taxes).

Mohammad Jenatian, president of the Greater Charlotte Hospitality and Tourism Alliance, was also scheduled to go.

It was unclear Monday whether the travelers would have their money refunded or if it would go toward a rescheduled trip. No new date had been set as of today.

The 88-minute flight between Charlotte and Havana is one of many inaugural flights this week between U.S. airports and Havana. Today, American flew its first direct flight between Miami and Havana (four will be offered daily). JetBlue starts service from Orlando to Havana on Tuesday and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport to Havana on Wednesday.

On Thursday, Spirit Airlines plans to begin flights from Fort Lauderdale; Delta Air Lines will start service from New York’s JFK, Atlanta and Miami to Havana; and Frontier also will have an inaugural flight from Miami to Havana.

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