The impact of direct commercial flights on U.S. and Cuba relations

Posted: 06-Sep-16 11:03

The new option of traveling directly to Cuba from the U.S. on a commercial flight is opening up more opportunity between the two countries. Not only is it now less expensive to book a flight, but some suggest the ease of travel may be leading to less stringent overall restrictions for Americans on holiday to the island.

The impact of direct commercial flights on U.S. and Cuba relations

With direct commercial flights from the United States to Cuba now reality, some are predicting the new travel choices may lead to even better relations between the two countries in the near future. Associated Press Havana Bureau Chief Michael Weissenstein recently penned his take on the new travel options in an article published by the New York Times.

Weissenstein ascended to his position a few months prior to the history-making announcement in late 2014 that the United States would be restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba, which over the course of the past year-and-a-half has resulted in less restrictive travel, opening the door for Americans to legally visit Cuba.

While previously the author had spent an hour to book a one-way, $330 charter flight from Havana to Miami, he describes the process as much different now. The first U.S. commercial flight to Cuba in more than a half-century was recently flown by JetBlue and Weissenstein was on it. He writes that he booked the electronic ticket in just minutes via the airline’s website for less than $100. The author paid another $35 to bring 100 pounds of items with him, including a designer dress, ice cube trays and porcelain kitchen tiles, all items he describes as virtually impossible to get in Cuba.

For reasons such as this the author suggests that commercial flights may be the most important thing to happen in regards to relations between the two nations, especially when it’s factored in that commercial flights from the U.S. to Cuba could soon number 300 per week.

While the article mentions that some travellers to Cuba used to be charged heavily for carry-on luggage while others paid out additional money to government sales agents for already pricey flights, commercial airlines have now opened new options. He quotes Neta Rodriquez, a Florida grandmother he met in line at the airport, in describing what booking travel used to be like compared to now.

“You can buy it from the comfort of your own home. You don’t even want to know how much I’ve spent on trips to Cuba over the years.”

The author suggests it is extremely easy now for Americans to book flights, click the box for a federal affidavit on the airline’s website and buy a Cuban visa at a U.S. airport before departure. Things like this, he notes, make it very easy for Americans to choose things like a weekend holiday to Cuba. By the end of the year travellers will also be able to fly directly into Havana from the U.S., in addition to the other Cuban cities. This, the author notes, could someday make Miami to Havana flights for Cubans and Cuban-Americans as ordinary as a New York to D.C. shuttle.

In describing the inaugural flight of around 150 passengers the author writes about Cuban music being played at the gate, a celebratory feel in the air, cheering passengers and waving Cuban flags. He also quotes a Cuban-American flight attendant’s emotional address to passengers, saying:

“We are really excited that this happened for Cubans and for people from the Unites States as well. This will be a great moment for all of us and, I’m pretty sure, for the families of both countries.”

While officially Americans must still qualify for one of the 12 approved travel categories in order to visit Cuba the author suggests that it is not being heavily enforced. Americans no longer have to book travel as part of a group with guides who work with travel companies tied to the Cuban government. While those requirements were put in place to keep Americans from going to Cuba for solely tourism reasons, U.S. travellers can now go to Cuba via direct flights and initiate their own itineraries.

The author also notes that some of the approved U.S. commercial flights are bound for beach resorts with all-inclusive hotels and white sand beaches, void of many of the educational activities the U.S. officially maintains are necessary for travel to Cuba. To make his point the author references a couple he came across headed to embark on a backpacking trip across Cuba. They had only reserved one night for lodging and planned to figure out the rest of the trip as they went along.

While the U.S. has eased up on travel restrictions to Cuba, a longstanding embargo is still in place. Still, though, travel has changed significantly in recent history, allowing Americans to now travel via direct commercial airline, private jet or cruise ship to the island. Already a record number of American travellers have booked travel to Cuba, experiencing the culture, history and sites in a way that Americans haven’t been able to legally do in more than 50 years.


Popular Holidays in cuba

OUR EXCLUSIVE DEALS AND LATEST OFFERS

Best Value

From £599 per person
villa pinares de mayari

Villa Pinares De Mayari

4.0 stars

Beautifully perched on the panoramic Mensura Hill, surrounded by striking greenery, this blessed and secluded natural...

Included
  • Flight
  • Accomodation
  • Transportation
  • Representation
From £619 per person
villa mirador de mayabe

Villa Mirador De Mayabe

2.0 stars

This enchanting villa hotel is surrounded by exuberant tropical plants and is perfectly located in a high point towering...

Included
  • Flight
  • Accomodation
  • Transportation
  • Representation
From £679 per person
sercotel club cayo guillermo

Sercotel Club Cayo Guillermo

3.0 stars

The perfect haven for lovers of nature in its purest state, the Villa Cojimar hotel sits in an idyllic location amidst...

Included
  • Flight
  • Accomodation
  • Transportation
  • Representation
From £679 per person
club amigo atlantico guardalavaca

Club Amigo Atlantico Guardalavaca

3.0 stars

Get away to one of Cuba's best kept secrets for a dream holiday at Club Amigo Atlantico. Guardalavaca is known to host...

Included
  • Flight
  • Accomodation
  • Transportation
  • Representation
From £679 per person
tryp cayo coco

Tryp Cayo Coco

4.0 stars

The perfect beach holiday awaits you the all-inclusive Tryp Cayo Coco hotel, where non-stop entertainment and utmost...

Included
  • Flight
  • Accomodation
  • Transportation
  • Representation
From £699 per person
memories holguin

Memories Holguin

4.0 stars

Enjoy a perfect beach setting while you unwind in the historic sands of the all-inclusive Memories Holguin. A short...

Included
  • Flight
  • Accomodation
  • Transportation
  • Representation

More deals


Explore cuba your way

Tailor made cuba holidays

For those who prefer to travel at their own pace or to explore places not included in the brochure itineraries, we have years of experience at organising tailor-made holidays.

Create the perfect trip with the help of our specialists

Our expert tour consultants will be pleased to suggest ideas to complement your own and to organise the most appropiate programme to suit your interests, time and budget.

Call 0207 644 1600
to speak with our award-winning travel consultants.

If you would like a member of our team to contact you back, please click here Contact us