NEW ORLEANS --
The Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport said it received federal approval Wednesday to serve as a port of entry for flights to and from Cuba.
"We are pleased that New Orleans was approved to be one of a small group of airports nationwide that is able to provide this service," Iftikhar Ahmad, the director of aviation, said.
Airport officials said they worked with International Charters & Tours of Metairie on the request for the Cuban service.
Airport officials said they received official notification from U.S. Customs and Border Protection that its application to serve as a gateway to Cuba was approved along with seven other airports. Previously, only Los Angeles, New York and Miami could provide service to Cuba.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu said, "The approval of New Orleans as a point of entry into Cuba is an exciting step forward for this community and the entire state of Louisiana. We look forward to offering these charter flights and thank the Obama administration for opening this gateway to Cuba."
Although charter flights to and from Cuba will now be allowed, travel will be restricted to "purposeful" travel, and passengers must have close relatives in Cuba or must be involved in the medical or agricultural business sectors, officials said.
Airport officials said travel for education and religious activities is also permitted, but there is no timeline yet on when the first flight will operate.
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