Amid travel restrictions, charter service adds nonstop flights from Fort Myers to Cuba

Amid travel restrictions, charter service adds nonstop flights from Fort Myers to Cuba
Fecha de publicación: 
4 December 2019
Imagen principal: 

With increased travel restrictions quickly approaching, some Cuban Americans are wondering how and when they'll be able to visit family hundreds of miles away.

For Maykel Constantin, however, he can see his family in Cuba "any time I want."

Constantin is the director of operations for Naples-based air charter service Cubazul. The company, which until recently only took passengers to Cuba from Miami International Airport, has begun trips straight from Fort Myers to Havana.

The small charter service now offers two flights from Southwest Florida International Airport per week, which come just weeks before a Trump administration ban of all airline flights to Cuba except for into Havana.

According to airport spokesperson Victoria Moreland, Cubazul's new offering makes them the only flight provider with nonstop trips from Fort Myers to Cuba.

The new restriction comes shortly after the banning of U.S. cruise ship stops in Cuba and group trips under the "people-to-people" category. "People-to-people" was one of the popular permitted categories for travel to Cuba, but Americans can still get to the country via categories such as family visits and "support for the Cuban people."

Charter services, such as Cubazul, are not affected by the airline flight ban.

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"The Cuban people can go and see their family using the charter operation," Constantin said. "With the airline, they won't be able to do it."

He said, once the travel restrictions are in place, Cuban families using airlines will be forced to fly to Havana and travel by car for hours on often unsafe roads to make it to their destination.

"With the charter company, we can go directly to any area they're going to," he said. "They can go see their family. If you live in Holguin, you have to go to Havana and get a car and drive eight hours to Holguin, back and forth. You probably lose two days. This way, you can go nonstop."

Utilizing the Cubazul charter service, passengers can fly to multiple areas of Cuba, such as Santa Clara, Camaguey, Holguin and Varadero, if they are flying from Miami. This provision, which will not change after Dec. 10, allows many Cuban Americans to drive a short distance from the airport to reach their family.

The only option in the Fort Myers expansion currently are 35-minute flights from RSW to Havana, but more options are coming soon.

Before the expansion, Cuban Americans in Southwest Florida had to drive hours to make it to Miami before traveling to Cuba. This eats up a large amount of time since the Transportation Security Administration encourages passengers to arrive at the airport two hours before a domestic flight and three hours before for international flights.

Additionally, Constantin said that the Miami airport is often much more crowded than RSW.

"Over here, it's in and out," he said. "You don't have to wake up early."

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