Ever since the U.S. government loosened travel restrictions in January 2015, people who qualified as journalists, family, or any of the other dozen-odd reasons to go had to jump through some irksome hoops to get there, taking expensive chartered flights or getting to Havana through a third country, even though Cuba is less than 100 miles off Florida’s coast.
Today it costs, on average, $717 to fly there from the U.S., according to research from Hopper. The first leg to the third-party city (Mexico City, Montreal, Cancún, Toronto) may cost a few hundred dollars, and from there it can be anything from $220 to $420 to the Havana airport.
All of this, however, is likely to change significantly when economic relations are restored completely, which is looking likelier and likelier as President Obama, Secretary Kerry, and more U.S. officials traveled to Cuba to meet with President Raúl Castro on Monday. In a press conference on Monday, President Castro said, “We have signed an agreement to resume commercial flights.” So expect it to happen sometime soon.
With normalized relations, airlines could definitively add Cuban destinations, and niche charter flights would be superseded by standard fares. In fact, many carriers have already applied to operate there, queuing up early in anticipation.
If the embargo is in fact lifted, Hopper estimates that the average round trip price from the U.S. would be around $364, and as cheap as $275 from Miami.
Should this happen, the demand will likely be huge if search volume is any metric. Since last year, interest has risen 500%, showing a huge spike on Google Trends.
The potential affordability of traveling to Cuba gives some sense as to the opportunity cost Cuba paid by not having normalized relations: Passing up on over 50 years of tourism opportunities from a giant country so close must have cost Cuba an astronomical amount of money. And for that reason, Cuba will probably look very different in 10 years when that money returns.