The world can change so very quickly. Bruce Jenner became Caitlyn Jenner; Zayn left One Direction; and we all thought that Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner would be together forever. Of course, there are some things that can quickly change in the world that are actually important. There was global surprise when the US and Cuba announced that they would resume formal diplomatic relations after decades of strife that ranged from frostiness to outright hostility. Americans were fascinated to learn that they would soon be able to visit one of their nearest neighbours without bureaucratic red tape, and Cubans were overjoyed that they would soon be able to visit family and friends that had fled to the US. Of course, these things won’t be able to happen so easily without the necessary transport infrastructure, and it’s not so easy to just fly to Cuba from USA. It can be done, but a particular process must be followed. So how is it accomplished, and how will it change in the coming years?
A Charter Service
Americans can fly to Cuba from USA using a charter service, after obtaining a necessary permit from the Cuban government. Your travel provider can help you with this, and there’s a small fee involved. It’s an annoyance, but mandatory. Because this is a different type of travel than a regular holiday, a charter service is a legal requirement. Travel to Cuba must be for a pre-approved purpose, such as a cultural activity, a family visit, or even religious worship. This means that Americans can’t officially go over for a general tourism visit, although this is pretty much what happens after arrival. These charter services are operated by major airlines, and most of them depart from Florida, although there are also flights from Los Angeles, New York, and other major centres.
It Will Happen Quickly
If you’re interested in going to Cuba, you really should pay attention to the news. As soon as air travel between the two nations is deregulated, commercial flights will begin in both directions. American Airlines and JetBlue are two major airlines that have announced plans for regular flights into Cuba as soon as legally permitted. When it happens, it will happen quickly. Perhaps you can set up a google news alert for something like “fly to Cuba from USA.” Once permitted, US travel agents and websites will begin to sell direct tickets to Cuba that don’t need a charter service. Even when this happens, you might still need a permit from the Cuban government (it’s unknown as to whether or not this will be discontinued), so check with your travel provider.
From Other Countries
Other countries don’t need to use the whole charter service smokescreen and can fly directly to Cuba. Americans are free to travel on these flights, but remember that you will need to state that your travel meets the official list of reasons for Americans to visit Cuba. Check the Department of Treasury’s website for this list. You no longer need actual permission, but you will need to state the reasons for your visit (from the list) upon arrival in Cuba, and often when you go back to the US. There are a number of airlines offering direct flights to Cuba from:
- Montreal, Toronto, Halifax, Ottawa, Hamilton, Moncton, Québec City, Winnipeg, Calgary, Saskatoon (Canada).
- You can also fly from Glasgow, London, Manchester (UK).
- From South and Central America, you can fly from a number of cities, including Buenos Aires (Argentina), Lima (Peru), and Mexico City (Mexico).
- When departing from Europe, you can fly from Amsterdam (the Netherlands), Lisbon (Portugal), Madrid (Spain), Milan (Italy), and Paris (France). You can even fly to Havana from Moscow.
Of course once you enter Cuba from another country, you can’t so easily fly back to the US. The charter flights may not be able to offer you a one way ticket back to the US, so you might need to fly through Mexico or Canada. And remember, Americans still need a permit to enter the country.
The Legal Process
It will be a relatively short process to restart regularly scheduled air services allowing passengers to fly to Cuba from USA. Any Cuban airlines that want to fly into the US will need to be approved to ensure that their aircraft and maintenance services are up to scratch, but this is not likely to be complicated, and in any event – there will be plenty of US airlines flying many routes to the island. There is already an agreement about travel between the two countries, but this dates all the way back to 1953. It’s speculated that this agreement could simply be updated to reflect recent developments, meaning that an Act of Congress might not even be needed. Cuba might be closer than you think!