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Travel company starts first direct charter flights between New York City and Havana

A Cuban flag hangs from a building in Havana December 27, 2014. Cuba's most prominent dissidents say they have been kept in the dark by U.S. officials over a list of 53 political prisoners who will be released from jail as part of a deal to end decades of hostility between the United States and Cuba.

ENRIQUE DE LA OSA/REUTERS

The first direct charter flights between New York City and Cuba are now taking off.

Cuba Travel Services has started offering a weekly Tuesday charter between John F. Kennedy International Airport and Havana. The flights are operated by Sun County Airlines, and cost $849 round-trip. The price includes airfare, Cuban medical insurance and U.S. departure taxes.

In January, the Obama administration announced it would be easing travel restrictions.

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Despite improving relations, tourism is still banned. Travelers must still declare a purpose that fits into one of the 12 approved categories, including family visits, government work and journalism. But most visitors no longer need to apply for a special license and wait for U.S. government approval.

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