Legal Travel from O’Hare to Havana, Cuba (Vámonos Vol. 17)

Non-stop charter flights can now travel between O’Hare and Jose Martí airport in Havana, Cuba.  The first of these flights took off November 25th of this year.  The charter airline that flew this first trip, C & T Charters, say they plan to continue these flights on a weekly basis.

Previously, government regulations would have made this flight impossible.  In January of this year, the Obama Administration loosened regulations and expanded legal travel to Cuba. The changes affect both who can fly to Cuba and which airports flights to Cuba can depart from.

American tourism in Cuba is illegal. The embargo also restricts the spending of money in Cuba.  According to U.S. State Department’s website “Transactions related to tourist travel are not licensable.” But there are licenses available to some groups, “who are permitted to spend money to travel to Cuba and engage in other transactions directly incident to the purpose of their travel.”  These licenses are available to journalists, students, and religious groups, among others.

As previously reported by the AP and Wall Street Journal, the new rules make it possible for places like Key West, Baltimore and Chicago to begin operating charter flights to Cuba.  Before 2011 flights going to Cuba could only depart from New York’s JFK, Miami International, and Los Angeles International airports.  There are now plans to operate flights to Cuba from six cities in Florida and nine other cities throughout the US.

These licenses for travel to Cuba, sometimes called “People to People licenses,” were originally granted during the Clinton administration, but were suspended by President Bush in 2004 (the year of his second presidential candidacy and eventual election).  A difference between Clinton’s and Obama’s policies is the expansion of airports allowed to conduct these flights.  According to C & T Charters, these flights are the first to fly directly to Havana from O’Hare in the last 50 years.


 This article was originally published by Extra and is also en Español and English on their website.