U.S. travelers will be able to purchase online tickets for direct flights from New York, Miami and Tampa, Fla., to Cuba starting Wednesday on CheapAir, the first online travel retailer to offer such bookings.
"Charter flights to Cuba are nothing new," Jeff Klee, CheapAir's chief executive officer, said Friday. "What we're doing that is new is bringing online booking to it."
Travelers can buy tickets Wednesday and travel immediately, Klee said. (Though you still have to comply with U.S. travel rules; see below.)
Daily flights from Miami to Havana cost $481 round-trip, including tax, Klee said. Charter flights also fly from New York once a week and Tampa twice a week. U.S. travelers also may book flights to other Cuban cities such as Santa Clara, Santiago and Cienfuegos.
CheapAir has partnered with one charter company, Cuba Travel Service, to offer the flights on its website.
Prior to this, most Americans who wanted to buy tickets to Cuba online would fly via Canada, Mexico, Panama or another country because of the longtime U.S. travel ban. The Obama administration's relaxing of rules in January has opened the door to freer tourism to Cuba.
However, Americans still need a valid reason to go.
"It's important to note the law is still the law, and you can still only be going to Cuba for one of 12 reasons," Klee said. Those reasons include educational activities, humanitarian projects and professional meetings.
Klee says ticket buyers will have to provide CheapAir with one of the allowed reasons before they can purchase a ticket online.
In a separate action, Orlando International Airport on Thursday announced that it would begin offering direct charter flights to Cuba starting July 8, according to a Chicago Tribune report.