MIAMI, United States. – “These are not good times to travel to Cuba,” assured a female client last Friday, September 17th, while waiting her turn at Servicuba headquarters, the small travel agency in the city of Hialeah which has been operating in that local community for the last 20 years.
During recent months, companies like Servicuba have only sent money and packages to Cuba. For most of them, the delivery time window for medicines, clothes and other items to Havana has increased from four to seven days to 45 to 60 days. The company has no delivery services to the provinces. The reasons for this delay are the unavailability of flights, which has forced the travel agencies to replace the familiar “mulas” –individuals who travel as package-carriers- with maritime shipping.
Long gone are the days when airline tickets to and from Santa Clara (2016, 2017) were US$ 99, or more recently, tickets to Havana at around US$ 300 to 400.
While it’s true that restrictions to regular flights to the provinces imposed by the Trump administration complicated air traffic between Cuba and Miami, the limitations imposed by Cuban authorities in the face of the spread of coronavirus have made it virtually impossible to travel to the island. Since January 2021, the number of flights has decreased ostensibly, and the prices have skyrocketed.
In the course of this month, American continued operating a weekly flight to Havana. The airline is authorized to fly to the “José Martí” International Airport (HAV) by virtue of a license that expires on November 2nd.
According to the flight registry[i] published for the month of September by Empresa Cubana de Servicios Aeroportuarios S.A. (ECASA, by its Spanish acronym), American flies to Havana from Miami International Airport (MIA) every Monday, arriving in Havana at 11:55 a.m. and returning to Miami at 1:25 p.m.
For the month of October, the airline will keep the same flight schedule, and no changes are expected until the island reopens its borders completely on November 15th, the date when restrictions imposed by Cuban authorities on arriving flights will be eliminated.
The airline’s price generators are not giving information a priori about flights to Cuba in the coming months. A company operator stated to CubaNet that this is due to the almost total lack of availability and the restrictions that are still in force.
Google Flights, the quick online search and reservation service where one can purchase airline tickets through outside providers, only provides information about round-trip flights between Miami or Fort Lauderdale and Havana starting in December. For now, prices are much higher than US$ 1,000, and most flights are scheduled with stops in Tampa, Orlando, Key West and New York.
Until yesterday, none of the deals that Google Flights listed for December were on American Airlines.
Flights to Cuba for December 2021 (Credit: Google Flights price generator)
Jet Blur Airlines, another U.S. company with permission to fly to Havana, kept a weekly flight schedule in September every Friday flying from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL), arriving in Havana at 4:00 p.m. and returning to Florida at 5:30 p.m. ECASA’s flight registry indicates that the airline will continue operating on this schedule during October.
Unlike with American Airlines, Google Flights does list the flight deals on Jet Blue to Cuba for the month of December. However, when CubaNet asked a company operator, he stated that prices could drop ostensibly if flight conditions were to change in the island.
Things are not much different from American or Jet Blue for flying to Cuba via Southwest Airlines: one weekly flight per week on Saturdays, round trip to Havana from Tampa International Airport. ECASA’s registry indicates that Southwest flights arrive in the Cuban capital at 10:50 a.m. and return to Florida at 12:10 p.m. Flight frequency for Southwest will remain the same during October.
It’s worth noting that, for Southwest Airlines, some travelers of Cuban origin indicated to Telemundo that they were not allowed to board the scheduled flight to the island on Saturday, September 18th, because, allegedly, the Tampa airport was not accepting PCR test results issued by Miami-Dade County required to board flights to Cuba.
Although Telemundo’s report doesn’t clarify the reasons for what happened, the airline informed the media channel that they were “working on solutions that will allow for the continuation of flights to Havana as soon as possible.”
Telemundo stated that most of the people who planned to travel on that day was carrying luggage full of medicines and had paid between US$ 2,000 and 3,000 for their tickets.
The always-coveted market of charter flights to Cuba will keep the same frequency for the month of October that it had in September: a flight every Thursday from Miami to Havana, arriving at “José Martí” International Airport at 3:30 p.m. and returning to the U.S. at 5:00 p.m.
In mid-September, an employee of Cubamax travel agency told CubaNet that all flights for September and October were fully booked. Individuals who wanted to travel to the island could stay in touch with the agency and check for any cancellations.
Charter flights Miami-Havana establish contracts with Havanatur, S.A., a company linked to Cuba’s Ministry of Tourism (MINTUR).
[i] Information published in the digital portal Directorio Cubano
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