web Musings of The Global Traveller

Saturday, February 14, 2009

How to get to | Cuba

This is part of a series of blog entries on how to get to countries and places. Here is a link to the index. I plan to eventually cover every country and some other places. If you have a request for a particular country or place please use the contact me link at top right, or leave a comment.


source: Schneider Svan

Due to US law the only flights to Cuba on US-based airlines are charters for humanitarian grounds (American Airlines and Continental, both from Miami). Most Caribbean and Central American airlines fly to Havana, and some airlines from further afield:

  • Star Alliance - Air Canada from Toronto (also flies to several other airports in Cuba)
  • Oneworld - Iberia (from Madrid), LAN (from Santiago), Mexicana (from Mexico City)
  • Sky Team - Aeroflot (from Moscow), Air France (from Paris)
  • selected non-alliance airlines - Virgin Atlantic (from London Gatwick)

Until the US embargo is lifted, Cuba is suprisingly awkward to visit. US citizens are not allowed to spend money in Cuba and US companies are not allowed to profit from Cuba or Cuba travel. Thus for Americans the traditional way to visit is to go via Canada, Mexico or Jamaica - with a separate ticket to/from Cuba, and take extra cash for the visit (since credit card use is proof of having broken the law). Flying Cubana is out for Americans. Cuban immigration helps visitors with the charade by not stamping passports.

For non Americans it is much simpler, although US law impedes. Not only can you not fly directly to or from USA, but it is also not allowed to have flights on US-based airlines on the same ticket.

So for example a One World Explorer round the world ticket that includes Cuba limits access to some North America destinations served only by American Airlines - the addition of Mexicana to Oneworld at least means major cities can be visited. For Star Alliance it is not quite as bad - you can fly around Canada and to/from USA on Air Canada as well as visit Cuba, however with no connection between Cuba and Europe there is a lot of back-tracking required (their round the world is mileage based).

TIP unless doing a simple round trip from Europe, book flights to either Mexico City or Jamaica and visit Cuba on a side-ticket (which will most likely need to be paid as the local airlines generally do not allow award tickets using miles on the major frequent flyer programs)

TIP it will be much easier to visit Cuba in future once US law is changed, but will Cuba be the same then?

UPDATED November 2009 - addition of Mexicana in Oneworld gives more flexibility.

1 comment:

apoivre said...

As part of the new Cuba-Russia bilateral SU plans to base an A320S or two in Havana to fly some routes around the Caribbean and to South America. No time frame has been given yet, though