Cuba requires a visa. It is incredibly easy to get one.
To obtain a Cuban visa, one must fit in at least one of 12 categories. These categories cover the waterfront from government business, to educational activities, to support for the Cuban people. The categories are interpreted very broadly and basically just ignored. I could have easily qualified under several but chose support for the Cuban people. The visa is only $20.
Since August 2016, several US airlines fly to Cuba including American, Delta, United, Jetblue and Alaska.
Airlines sell the visa when you buy the ticket or at the gate when you depart. I bought my ticket and visa from Delta online and picked up the visa and filled out the forms at the gate. Depending on the airline, the charge is $50 to $110 including the visa fee.
My flight from Atlanta (ATL) to Habana (HAV), DL 619, boarded at gate E35 at the north end of concourse E.
The scene at the gate was chaotic. Everyone, even those who had already paid the $50 Delta visa and processing fee, had to fill out and verify forms before boarding.
The gate chaos turned out not to be a big deal since the crew was very late in arriving. The flight was substantially delayed.
I had purchased an economy ticket and received a complimentary medallion upgrade to first class several days before the flight. It took off with several empty first class seats. Flights to Cuba should be an easy upgrade for Delta elites even Silvers. Using a Regional Upgrade certificate to get a first class seat would be a waste.
I selected seat 1A, a bulkhead window seat. It was fine for the short duration of this flight.
This A319 had updated interiors with “ambiance”lighting, higher-capacity overhead bins, snazzy personal ventilation and lighting pods, and personal video.
As usual, the Delta flight attendants (FAs) offered pre-departure beverages.
Pushback from the gate was almost 45 minutes late.
Information on the aircraft and the flight was on the video system. The A319-100OW has only 132 seats. The flood of American tourists has yet to materialize. Two US carriers have already exited the Cuban market. Others are reducing capacity on these routes.
We departed ATL at 12:00 p.m. The flight to HAV was projected to take one hour and 49 minutes. The system, however, provided contradictory information of the distance to HAV. The screen above says 648 miles while the screen below says 745.
Because the flight was less than two hours, inflight service was limited.
I took a pee(k) in the bathrooms, which were also nicely updated.
Only 30 minutes or so after reaching the cruise altitude we started descending. I had flown over Cuba several times. This was my first up close look at the “Mysterious Island.”
We deplaned via airstairs and then took a bus to the terminal. The immigration and customs process was a breeze.
Getting to Cuba is easy and fast. Everyone who wants to go comes under at least one of the 12 criteria for a visa. The demand for travel to Cuba falls short of the current capacity on flights from the US. It is possible that prices for airline tickets could fall somewhat. And that also means it is an easy free upgrade for frequent flyer elites. But don’t wait to go because the policy that allows this travel is subject to the whims of the Trump administration.
Other posts about this Cuba trip: