Southwest Airlines readies first flights to Cuba with major price incentive

Posted: 31-Oct-16 09:19

US carrier Southwest Airlines may not be first off the starting blocks, but with tickets from Fort Lauderdale to Varadero starting at less than $60 one-way, the new routes are expected to prove extremely popular with budget-minded travellers.

Southwest Airlines readies first flights to Cuba with major price incentive

If you’ve kept your eye on U.S. travel news of late then the emergence of several scheduled routes from America to one of the Caribbean’s least accessible islands won’t have gone unnoticed. And with it the apparent price war between competing carriers.

After more than five decades of trade and travel embargoes, Washington has begun taking executive decisions to make both business relationships and passage between Cuba and the States easier. Whereas almost all travel from the mainland to the culturally isolated nation was once banned, it’s now possible to plan trips for a number of reasons, including religious and cultural tourism, volunteering, and visiting family.

The result means that several American airlines have been granted permission to begin regular flights from various US airports to destinations in Cuba. The first to put this into practice was JetBlue, which flew the very first scheduled flight between the two countries for over half a century earlier in 2016. This was quickly followed by American, which began its services hot on the heels of its aforementioned rival.

Southwest is now ready to join the race, with its inaugural two daily non-stop flights from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Varadero, in northern Cuba, starting on 13th November. Within weeks, another two daily direct routes will begin between Fort Lauderdale and Havana, with the Cuban capital also getting two daily flights from Tampa, Florida, at the same time. Plans are already in place for a third option, taking people directly from Fort Lauderdale to Santa Clara, although no dates have been confirmed for take off.

Far from being a late runner, Southwest may have cornered the market when it comes to budget travel, for the time being at least. Flights made between November 13, 2016, and April 24, 2017, will be priced at a special rate to celebrate the routes beginning. Providing customers book before November 20, and no less than 14 days in advance of their actual journey, fares from as little as $59 each way will be up for grabs, substantially lower than most other carriers are likely to offer.

All of which means Cuba is expecting a significant rise in the number of U.S. visitors, however experts are clear on the need for tourists and travellers to make sure they are fully aware of all rules, regulations and restrictions for Americans making the journey. These include meeting any of the 12 general reasons for visiting, and being in possession of a valid visa approving entry.

“Travel-related transactions are permitted by general license for certain travel related to the following activities... family visits; official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations; journalistic activity; professional research and professional meetings; educational activities; religious activities; public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; support for the Cuban people; humanitarian projects; activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials; and certain authorized export transactions.”

According to the Department of Treasury’s official 2016 advice on visiting Cuba.


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