Families traveling to Cuba on the rise

Nildo Herrera drew the stares of fellow passengers and airline ticket agents as he checked into his recent Havana flight at Miami International Airport wearing five hats, one atop another.

"One is for my grandson, another for my son and the rest for other relatives," the smiling 75-year-old Hialeah resident explained to a bemused Vivian Mannerud, a local Cuba travel industry executive handling his boarding.

Herrera was one of the thousands of travelers who swarm MIA's Concourse F pushing carts precariously loaded with mountains of suitcases and duffel bags, all tightly wrapped in blue plastic, as they inch their way to ticket counters to pick up boarding passes for Cuba flights.

The scenes are reminiscent of the days when MIA filled up with tens of thousands of exiles on early family-reunification flights in the late 1970s and early '80s. Family travel gradually dwindled as U.S.-Cuba relations cooled.

Now, five months after Congress loosened strict Bush-era rules for family visits to Cuba, the numbers of travelers to the island is up dramatically, South Florida travel executives say.

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