Flying to Cuba from the USA
Updated November 20th, 2023.
Many Flights Operate Daily From the US to Cuba
Since Cuba reopened its borders after the pandemic in November 2021, many US airlines have resumed service. American Airlines has the most experience and biggest commitment to Cuba and they started flights immediately. If you’re wondering "Can I fly to Cuba from the USA?" the answer is a resounding yes!
In terms of which airlines offer flights to Cuba, as of late 2023 the list includes: American, Jet Blue, United, Southwest and Delta. American has the highest frequency of flights. Demand for flights to Cuba is high, mostly due to Cuban Americans flying to see their families throughout the island. However, if you schedule your travels outside popular holiday periods you can find very reasonably priced flights.
In addition to Havana, American Airlines also goes to 4 other airports in Cuba. These include: Varadero, Santa Clara, Camaguey and Holguin. All this is great news for U.S. citizens wishing to visit Cuba beyond Havana. These flights make it easy for our guests to access our cultural and active tours to eastern Cuba, including our guided sea kayaking and hiking tours.
A group of Americans on tour in Cuba with Peter and Cuba Unbound
A Short History on Flights to Cuba
Prior to the pandemic and during the Cuba travel boom from 2015-2020, there were about 34 flights per day from the USA to Cuba, including over 20 to Havana, and daily flights to Camagüey, Holguín, Santiago de Cuba, Santa Clara and Varadero. Then events conspired that temporarily halted flights, as well as travel to Cuba. Here's a recent history of how it all started on a dark night in a hotel bar in the small town of Gibara in northeast Cuba. It was November 8, 2016, the night of the Clinton/Trump election.
I was leading a tour group of Americans on a kayaking and cultural tour of eastern Cuba who were able to travel there due to the improved relations between the USA and Cuba initiated by President Obama in late 2014. The easing of travel restrictions resulted in a flood of U.S. visitors starting in mid-2015 and from 2015 until early 2020, hundreds of thousands of Americans visited Cuba. Among our guests were some that had been involved in the failed invasion of the Bay of Pigs in 1961, Cubans whose families had left Cuba during the 1959 revolution and wanted to go back and see places from their childhood, and of course, many who were simply fascinated by this island nation just 90 miles off U.S. shores.
At the peak of U.S. travel to Cuba just a few years ago, there were dozens of flights between the US and Cuba, with service by American Airlines, Jet Blue, Southwest, Delta, United and, for a short period, a nonstop from Los Angeles to Havana on Alaska Airlines. There are also flights from Mexico, Canada, Panama and many other countries.
Sadly, on that dark night in Gibara, the seeds were planted that would erode Cuba - U.S. relations. Just seven months later, the Trump administration dealt a big blow to American visits to Cuba by way of fiery anti-Cuba speeches in June 2017 followed by another in November. These speeches were the beginning of some new travel restrictions; however, they did not prevent U.S. citizens from traveling to Cuba.
Many Americans still think they can’t visit Cuba. We want to state again: Yes, Americans can visit Cuba! One reason people are confused is that on June 4, 2019, the U.S. put forth new regulations that forbade U.S. cruise ships from going there. It wasn't so much that cruise ships couldn't go that was the problem. It was the headlines by U.S. media that read "Americans Can't Visit Cuba" with a much smaller subtitle "Aboard Cruise Ships." Soon the perception among U.S. travelers was that Cuba was once again off limits.
Peter and guests sea kayaking Caribbean waters in Cuba
Flights Stop During COVID-19 Pandemic and Reopen in 2021
Nothing was further from the truth. In keeping with U.S. regulations, Cuba Unbound continued to operate tours until mid-March 2020 when Covid-19 exploded and then, a couple of weeks later, Cuba closed their borders to protect their people from the pandemic. At that time travel and flights from the U.S. effectively ended.
Cuba opened their borders in November 2021 and it wasn't long before American and Jet Blue were once again offering daily flights from Florida to Havana. In February 2022 Cuba Unbound resumed our tours again and we’re very happy that there are many daily flights to Havana as well as five other cities in Cuba.
A Cuban flag adorns a street in Havana, Cuba
Many Flight Options and Cuba Tours under Authorized Travel Categories
Americans can visit Cuba under one of 12 authorized travel categories. Our tours are designed to comply with US law in this regard and we operate our tours either under the People-to-People educational category of authorized travel, or the Support for the Cuban People category. When you sign up for a private tour with us, or one of our scheduled tours, we make it easy and take care of all needed formalities.
Can I fly from one side of Cuba to the other? The short answer is that it’s not advised. Domestic flights within Cuba are rare and not dependable. That’s unfortunate because Cuba is a big island and it's some 700 miles from the western to eastern ends. Driving from Havana to Holguín for example, is a 12-hour ordeal. When I had to travel from Holguín to Havana it was faster to fly back to Miami and then continue on to Havana on the same day. I could do this in 6-7 hours compared to the long 12-hour car ride which was 15 or more hours by bus. So, if you want to visit both the east of west of Cuba, it’s best to do it as separate trips, unless you have a lot of time and want us to design a custom Cuba tour for 12-20 days that would start in Holguin and end in Havana, or vice versa.
If you haven't visited Cuba yet, we invite you to join us for a fabulous learning opportunity. If you have been to Cuba, we invite you to return to explore more of this fascinating Caribbean island.
By Peter Grubb
The Founder of Cuba Unbound, Peter has been a guide and tour operator for over 45 years. He has traveled throughout Cuba on over 25 trips in the past eight years, having spent over 24 months on the island, exploring places well-known and remote.