BUSINESS

If all restrictions were lifted, flights to Cuba could drop 50% in price, study says

As President Obama visits Cuba to talk about normalizing relations with the communist country, a new study concluded that prices for flights to the island nation from the U.S. could fall by almost 50% if all travel sanctions are lifted.

The study by the travel site Hopper.com found that round-trip flights to Cuba from the U.S., which require that travelers meet specific government-imposed criteria, costs an average of $717.

The average round-trip fare between the U.S. and Cuba would drop by almost 50%, to $364, if the U.S. government were to lift all travel restrictions and airlines were to begin regular service, according to Hopper.com.

The cheapest flights, according to the study, would be from Miami, with nonstop round-trip flights at an average price of $275.

Since Obama began talking about normalizing relations with Cuba over the last year, online travel agencies have reported a 500% increase in searches for flights to Cuba, the travel site said.

United, American, Southwest, JetBlue and other carriers have submitted applications with the U.S. Department of Transportation requesting the agency award them a share of 20 daily round-trip flights to Havana, and 10 flights to nine smaller airports across Cuba. The agency plans to award the routes this summer.

The Obama administration has already eased travel restrictions by allowing individuals to travel to Cuba for "people-to-people educational" purposes. Previously, one of several restrictions on travel to Cuba required educational trips to be in groups sponsored through a U.S.-based organization and accompanied by a guide. 

To read more about travel, tourism and the airline industry, follow Hugo Martin on Twitter at @hugomartin.

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