(AP) _ U-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - Three and a half months after sanctions brought an end to U.S. commercial flights here, American Airlines Flight 1291 glided into a renewed country, buoyed by the presence of 20,000 U.S. soldiers.

En route from Miami in the airliner Wednesday, Telor Henry had stashed posters bearing the picture of exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide under his seat.

''I'm going to Haiti to celebrate my victory, my democracy 3/8'' proclaimed the beaming, 46-year-old farm laborer who left the northern port of Cap- Haitien for Miami in 1975. ''I'm going to celebrate with my people.''

For Jocelyne Michel, 40, a Haitian living in Boston, the resumption of commercial flights meant she could hold a funeral for her 70-year-old mother, Felicite Joseph, who died of a heart attack a month ago.

''I called every day, American Airlines, the State Department,'' said her 19-year-old son Jean, heading for Haiti for the first time since his childhood. ''I even called the White House to find out when they were going to have flights to Haiti.''

One woman was bringing five children whose families sent them to the United States as the showdown between the world and the brutal military regime that overthrew Aristide three years ago heated up.

But Haiti's army leaders have stepped down, and Aristide was expected to return Saturday.

As the plane approached the runway, passengers gaped out the windows at the military vehicles, helicopters and camouflage-draped green tents sprinkled around the airport.

After being greeted by U.S. Ambassador William Swing, they had to take a circuitous route through immigration to claim their bags because the U.S. military has taken over the airport facilities.

The Rev. Leroy Landy, 58, who has lived in Haiti for 29 years, expressed optimism about the changes since he left on a vacation 3 1/2 months ago that was extended because of the commercial air embargo.

''I hope that they continue in the same direction and that it really turns out to be a pacification and reconciliation,'' Landy said.