The process to allow free, unrestricted travel from the United States to Cuba continues to move along as a Senate panel last week approved provisions that would ease travel to the country.
The amendment, which passed on an uncontested voice vote, would allow Americans unfettered access to Cuba and “would make it possible for Americans to travel to Cuba without the interference of their own government,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the top Democrat on the committee that approved the bill.
At the moment, Americans can only travel to Cuba for 12 approved reasons, including family visits, journalistic activity, education, and humanitarian projects. Tourism is currently not one of the reasons.
Leahy said that the current law, which doesn’t allow travel to Cuba but allows Americans to visit North Korea, “hasn’t done a darn thing.”
The amendment, which is part of a four-amendment financial services bill, will now go to the House for approval.
The rest of the amendments on the bill would eliminate other restrictions to Cuba, including enabling ships to dock in Cuba without a waiting period outside of the United States, lifting a prohibition against foreign airlines getting fuel or services in the United States on their way to Cuba, and allowing U.S. agricultural exporters to sell to Cubans on credit.
Meanwhile, after the Department of Transportation approved airline flights last week, tickets for some of the first American flights to Cuba are officially on sale.
American Airlines, for example, is selling tickets on its service from Miami to Cienfuegos and Holguin, which will start in September, to the public and travel agents. American was one of six U.S. airlines to get approval for Cuban flights last week; the others were Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airlines, Silver Airways, Southwest Airlines, and Sun Country Airlines.
Airlines are still waiting for the Department of Transportation (DOT) to rule on the 20 round-trip flights per day now allowed between the United States and Havana. The DOT said it will announce those routes later this summer.
Daniel McCarthy, Travel Market Report
June 21, 2016