The U.S. just made it even harder to travel to Cuba

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The U.S. is ratcheting up its restrictions on travel to Cuba, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Thursday.

Cuba is already on a Level 4 travel advisory (Do Not Travel), and not just because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Trump administration had already prohibited general tourism in Cuba for U.S. citizens unless your visit meets any of the 12 categories for authorized travel. But starting on October 13, 2020, select private charter flights will also be prohibited.

Here’s what that means for travelers.

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(Photo by javier gonzalez leyva/Shutterstock)

Select charter flights banned from visiting Cuba

You may remember last October when the U.S. suspended all commercial flights to Cuba, save those going to Havana. That ban is still in place, meaning it’s no easier to get to Cuba than it was 10 months ago.

This new private charter ban won’t affect the vast majority of people still eligible for traveling to Cuba. Though similar to the October travel suspensions, the new ban is likely aimed at Americans who want to invest in Cuba. As relations between the U.S. and Cuba are strained, the Trump Administration wants fewer U.S. citizens patronizing the island nation. Now, private charter jets owned by affluent investors can no longer negotiate the 90-mile journey above the Florida Strait.

Secretary Pompeo stated on Thursday:

This action will suspend all charter flights between the United States and Cuba over which the Department of Transportation exercises jurisdiction, except for authorized public charter flights to and from Havana and other authorized private charter flights for emergency medical purposes, search and rescue, and other travel deemed in the interest of the United States.

Note that charter flights are not banned full stop. The Miami Herald shares that a State Department spokesperson confirmed: “authorized public charter [flights] and scheduled air service to Havana remains.” That means Americans visiting Cuba under one of the authorized categories of travel still shouldn’t have much trouble entering.

This restriction enforced on private charter flights should have little to no effect on tourism, but it’s another limitation in a long series of actions the U.S. has put on travel between the two nations since President Barack Obama started to allow tourism in 2015. In June 2019, the Trump administration barred cruise lines and smaller boats from visiting Cuba, a popular method for Americans visiting the country.

However, the factors outlined by the U.S. Department of State are enough to keep many U.S. citizens away for the time being — unless you meet one of the 12 categories of authorized travel.

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