As has always been the case, the relationship between the United States and Cuba is, well, complicated. In early 2015, the United States and Cuba agreed to exchange prisoners and begin conversations about the embargo against Cuba established in 1962. One of the initial sanctions eased at the beginning of the year was the ability for U.S. citizens to be able to travel to Cuba. However, simply easing a sanction does not make for easy travel to a country with which we’ve had long and problematic relations with.
About a month after these sanction talks, CheapAir, the online travel agency, announced that they were going to offer flights to Cuba on their site. Within the first two hours after opening the offer, there were over 10,000 search requests for flights. But since then, there has been a lot of controversy over levels of deception displayed on the part the travel agency.
It’s still not possible to fly directly to Cuba. Layovers are unavoidable, as is a one round-trip ticket. Thus, even if you are going to make it to the esoteric island, you must not only lay over, but transfer luggage, re-enter security, and often change airlines. CheapAir is offering a service that does not ameliorate any of those problems, but simply allows you to book both sets of flights with slightly less hassle.
Further, even if you can buy tickets to get to Cuba, even if you have the $1,000 (a current average rate from New York to Cuba), it’s not entirely clear just how welcome you will be when you get there. While some sanctions have been eased or lifted, there are only 12 reasons for permitted travel. These include: family visits, governmental visits, journalistic purposes, research and professional meetings, educational reasons, religious activities, performances and competition, “support for the Cuban people,” humanitarian projects, programs by private foundations/research institutes and exportation/importation business pursuits.
CheapAir does provide travelers with a list, in which they must check off the reason(s) for booking a trip to Cuba. However, they’re not at all legally accountable. Upon arrival at the airport, even if CheapAir thinks you’re ok, the Cuban security officers may disagree.
Cuba has become something of an idyllic dream for many American travelers – a forbidden, tropical land, that we’ve been deprived of. Thus, when sanctions were eased it was only natural that people became excited and immediately wanted to go. However, there are still a number of caveats that one must overcome to get to this island of dreams.