We’re really excited to announce that we just became the first online travel agency to book flights to Cuba for U.S. travelers!
UPDATE: On Wednesday, April 15, 2015 CheapAir became the first online travel agency selling direct flights to Cuba for qualified U.S. citizens. Departing daily from Miami International Airport and on a more abbreviated schedule from Tampa and New York’s JFK, this new option is the most convenient and most direct way to travel to Cuba. Havana is accessible via all three U.S. originating airports and Cienfuegos, Santa Clara, Holguin, Camaguey and Santiago de Cuba are all destinations serviced via Miami.
Earlier this year, as part of the plan to lift embargo restrictions, the United States government relaxed the longstanding policy against travel to Cuba and made it easier for U.S. citizens to visit. Since that time, we’ve seen a surge in requests to travel there, so we put our heads together to figure out how we could make the whole process easier for those who qualify.
From a technical standpoint, Cuba creates a big challenge. There are still no airlines that fly from the U.S. to Cuba – either directly or with a connection. The only way to get there, other than a charter flight, is to buy a ticket to a third country like Mexico, Canada, or the Bahamas and then buy a separate ticket from there to Cuba with an international airline that offers service. This is a tedious exercise for a consumer because it requires you to go to separate sites and toggle back and forth in an attempt to piece together an itinerary that will work.
This is the kind of problem our development team loves to tackle. While we couldn’t make the requirement for two separate tickets any less complicated, what we could do is build a system to do all the work for you! Now you can let CheapAir figure out the connections that work from your city and book the separate tickets behind the scenes so you can take care of it all in one seamless transaction! We’re proud of the work our team did to build this in just a few short weeks. That’s something no one else has done!
To be sure, traveling to Cuba is still very different than traveling most anywhere else. First off, and very importantly, it remains illegal for many people to travel there. The government lists 12 reasons for which you are authorized to go to Cuba – journalism, humanitarian work, and to see family members are all on the list. These 12 are the only acceptable reasons. Before making your purchase with CheapAir you will be required to indicate which applies to your travel situation. Unfortunately, a week on a Cuban beach isn’t on the list!
There are other reasons traveling to Cuba at this point isn’t for the faint of heart. See our blog post covering what you need to know about travel to Cuba that describes some of the realities. It’s important to be aware of these challenges.
For now, we are only able to process bookings to the capital, Havana, but we are open to adding other destinations in the future.
All of the limitations notwithstanding, we’re excited to make it easier for those who are authorized to go to Cuba to do so without a lot of confusing and frustrating legwork. We’ll do the heavy lifting so qualified travelers can experience the beauty of the land and hospitality of the Cuban people first-hand.