First flight from New Jersey to Cuba departs from Newark Liberty International Airport

About 170 passengers are among the first to fly out of New Jersey to Cuba as United Airlines begins running flights from Newark Liberty International Airport.

United held a celebration at Newark's Terminal C prior to the flight. There was music, food and a ceremonial ribbon cutting at Gate C-95.

The flight was scheduled to take off at 10:15 a.m., but celebrations ran a bit long so the flight was delayed slightly.

Some of the passengers on the flight say that they are happy they can finally fly to Cuba to visit family.

"It's a beautiful opportunity to fly directly from Newark," says one passenger who was flying with her husband to visit his relatives.

There has been some concern from some exiled Cuban-Americans who feel diplomatic relations should not be normalized until Cubans can live in a democratic society. 

United is offering one flight from Newark to Havana each day as well as a Saturday-only direct service to Cuba from Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport.

Commercial flights between the United States and Cuba resumed several months ago as relations between the two countries gradually improved under President Barack Obama.

Tourist travel to the island remains prohibited. The 12 approved categories for travel to Cuba include family visits/people-to-people cultural exchanges, professional meetings, and educational or religious activities, among others.

The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.

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