Big news! Havanatur Celimar, which is the branch of Cuban tour operator Havanatur that handles the U.S. travel market, has reported that Cuba has approved a bundle of U.S. airports, plus charter service providers and relevant airlines, for landing rights in a variety of Cuban airports (Havana, Camaguey, Cienfuegos, Holguin, Santiago de Cuba, Santa Clara, and Manzanillo). These U.S. airports have already received U.S. permission to begin charter flights to Cuba, as directed by President Obama in January of this year.
This brings the number of U.S. airports eligible for charter flights direct to Cuba to at least a dozen. The new airports which will begin direct flights in the next months are: Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, Baltimore, Chicago, Atlanta, New Orleans, Dallas, Houston, and San Juan, Puerto Rico, added to existing direct flights from Miami, NYC, and Los Angeles. See the Reuters article by Marc Frank (based in Havana) here.
What does this mean politically? Recent efforts by Cuban-American hardliners in the Congress to roll back the easing of travel restrictions will be harder and harder to pass (see our most recent alerts on these efforts to deny your right to travel here and here), as more and more U.S. citizens have the opportunity to see Cuba for themselves and to understand better the absurdity of our policy toward Cuba. And then come home, make their voices heard, and work for a change in policy. More contact is better than less. More opportunities for exchange lead to closer human ties and fewer misunderstandings. More freedom to travel is consistent with our fundamental constitutional rights. More avenues for dialogue will bring us closer to the normal relations with our neighbor Cuba that citizens on both sides of the Florida Straits desire and deserve. More.
What does this mean for you? There will soon be more points around the United States from which U.S. citizens can travel to Cuba (see our “How-to” Travel to Cuba on-line brochure here): more convenient travel routes, airports closer to home, and hopefully less cost. It also means more opportunities for exchange programs, more markets and jobs for charter companies, and MORE interactions with our Cuban counterparts. So, stay tuned. And let the travel begin!