April 15, 2015 1:33 pm
Updated: April 15, 2015 6:44 pm

U.S. travellers get one click closer to Cuba with direct flights

Tourists ride in a classic American car on the Malecon in Havana, Cuba. A new set of U.S. government regulations took effect Jan. 16, 2015, severely loosening the 50-decade long travel and trade restrictions for Cuba.

Franklin Reyes, File/AP Photo
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It just got a whole lot easier for U.S. travellers to book a direct flight to Cuba.

Airline booking website CheapAir.com is boasting the first online sale of tickets for direct charter flights between U.S. cities and the Cuban capital, Havana.

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The California-based company had already begun selling Cuba-bound trips, on flights connecting through Mexico using a second airline to carry on to the island nation. But Americans hoping to fly direct now have the option of travelling non-stop to Havana.

According to CheapAir.com, there will be daily flights to Havana out of Miami. A return flight from Miami, operated by Sun Country Airlines, goes for US$471, the website indicates.

The company also said it is offering options to fly non-stop to Havana from either New York’s JFK International Airport or Tampa International Airport.

READ MORE: Airbnb opens up travel to Cuba, but sorry, no Canadians allowed

With the U.S. government thawing its frigid relations with the tropical Communist country, it’s been a waiting game to see how quickly a flood of U.S. tourists would arrive in Cuba.

But, the floodgates aren’t open just yet.

U.S. visitors to Cuba must have a reason for travel that falls under one of 12 authorized categories.

Those include:

  • family visits
  • U.S. government or international government official business
  • journalistic activity
  • professional research and professional meetings
  • educational activities
  • religious activities
  • public performances, clinics or workshops
  • 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
  • authorized export transactions

Customers must select which designation they fall under at the time of booking.

Like travellers from other countries, U.S. residents will need a to pay for a tourist card visa upon arrival.

READ MORE: Return visit to Communist Cuba finds new hope amid change

For Canadian snowbirds who might be hoping to take advantage of quick hop across the Straits of Florida, CheapAir.com says they are allowed to book through the website. But, they have to abide by the same guidelines as American customers if they want to book through the website.

In an email to Global News, spokesperson Mallory Snitker said “all travellers need to supply an approved reason for their travel to the U.S.”

But, Snitker said these categories “encompass most reasons for travel.”

According to the Dept. of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, Canadians residing in the U.S. “are prohibited from spending money (in any currency) related to Cuban travel unless they are licensed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).”

Snitker told Global News a Canadian travelling to Cuba on direct flight originating in the U.S. will have to “sign a travel affidavit affirming their OFAC general license category.”

President Barack Obama eased U.S.-Cuba trade restrictions in January, following nearly a year and a half of secret talks hosted in Canada.

Following a historic meeting with Cuban President Raoul Castro, at the Summit of the Americas in Panama, Obama said he wants Cuba removed from the U.S. list of countries designated as state sponsors of terrorism.

© 2015 Shaw Media

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