SEVENSEAS Marine Conservation & Travel Issue 16, September 2016 - Page 69

South Florida, We Have Lift Off!

By Marcus Reamer

on-charted American travel to Cuba is ramping up after sanctions between the

United States and Cuba have been lifted and travel restrictions loosened. On August 31, the first regularly scheduled American flight to Cuba in over half a century took flight. The flight operated by JetBlue originated at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) and landed in Santa Clara, Cuba’s Abel Santamaría Airport (SNU). More points of origin, more destinations, and more carriers will be offered over the next few months.

JetBlue is systematically rolling out and expanding its offerings to Cuba after the inaugural flight. From now until October 1, flights to and from Fort Lauderdale to Santa Clara will operate on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. After October 1, flights for the same route will operate daily. By the end of November, the carrier will offer flights from Fort Lauderdale to Camagüey and Holguín. Other announced U.S. points of origin include New York’s JFK airport and Orlando’s international airport, though JetBlue’s website does not yet indicate when flights from these locations will begin; flights to Havana, the Cuban city most Americans are familiar with, are pending final government approval. Havana is proving to be tricky for airlines as the demand for the route is greater than the number of aircrafts that can occupy that airspace.

Following JetBlue with published flights you can book now are American Airlines and Florida’s Silver Airways. All of the major airways have at least submitted a request to the Department of Transportation for approval including Alaska Airlines, Delta, Frontier, Southwest, Spirit, and United. Over the next year or so, you can expect your favorite airline (and even your least favorite airline) to start offering regular flights to Cuba.

While travel to Cuba is now allowed, it’s not as simple as booking a ticket and trying to show up at the airport on time; restrictions are still in place and rules need to be followed. For instance, general tourism to Cuba is still prohibited, so U.S. travelers need to certify they are visiting Cuba under one of 12 conditions: educational activities, professional research or meetings, public performances or other types of exhibitions such as athletic events, religious activities, humanitarian projects, journalistic activities, visiting family members who live in Cuba, activities in Cuba by private foundations or research/educational institutions, export or import of technology or information, authorized export transactions, official business of the U.S. government, specific license, support for the Cuban people, or as a Cuban National or resident of Cuba. It is highly recommended that all travelers to Cuba contact the Cuban Embassy in D.C. prior to their trip to find out which is the most appropriate visa for their purpose of travel.

A travel visa, a U.S. passport that is valid for at least six months from the date of return and that has two blank pages at time of boarding, and health insurance that covers the territory of Cuba are also required. Additionally, it is recommended that travelers to Cuba arrive at the airport at least three hours prior to departure to sort all of the details out. For anyone who has difficulty navigating temporary trip insurance or a visa, JetBlue and American are offering assistance on their websites or at the airport.

It will be interesting to see how tourism to Cuba evolves, but for now, enjoy the scenery, a mojito or two, and the Cuban cuisine.