Habana, Cuba February 2017 Part 1 of 5 – Delta A319 First Class Atlanta, GA to La Habana, Cuba

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.

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JetBlue A321 at HAV

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.

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Area where forms were filled out on clipboards and verified before presenting to the agents at the check in counter who reverified them.

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. IMG_3923

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.

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The seat is 21 inches wide with a pitch of 36 inches.  Each seat has a/c and USB power.

This A319 had updated interiors with “ambiance”lighting, higher-capacity overhead bins, snazzy personal ventilation and lighting pods, and personal video.

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Ambience lighting and high-capacity overhead bins allow carryons to be inserted sideways
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New ventilation and lighting pods
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Personal video system

As usual, the Delta flight attendants (FAs) offered pre-departure beverages.

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Sparkling wine

Pushback from the gate was almost 45 minutes late.

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ATL F concourse

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. IMG_3955

We departed ATL at 12:00 p.m.  The flight to HAV was projected to take one hour and 49 minutes.IMG_3954  The system, however, provided contradictory information of the distance to HAV.  The screen above says 648 miles while the screen below says 745. IMG_3956 (1)

Because the flight was less than two hours, inflight service was limited.

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Light snacks but Woodford Reserve to the rescue

I took a pee(k) in the bathrooms, which were also nicely updated.

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I appreciate the lotion in the lavatories

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.”IMG_3973 IMG_3976 (1)

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On the ground at Jose Marti International (HAV)

We deplaned via airstairs and then took a bus to the terminal.  The immigration and customs process was a breeze.

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Disembarking at HAV

Overall Impression

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:

La Habana, Cuba February 2017 Part 2 of 5 – Cuban Currency, Accommodations & Food

La Habana, Cuba February 2017, Part 3 of 5 – The Buena Vista Social Club(s)

Remembering Heminway – La Habana, Cuba February 2017, Part 4 of 5

La Habana, Cuba February 2017 Part 5 of 5 – Photo Review

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2 thoughts on “Habana, Cuba February 2017 Part 1 of 5 – Delta A319 First Class Atlanta, GA to La Habana, Cuba

  1. subject to the WHIMS of the TRump administration???? really you had to go political!!!!no one should go till Castro and his human rights vilations goes too!!!

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  2. @dot, Thank you for your comment. My statement was slightly political but it was correct. If Trump follows through with his campaign promise, he will shut down the American Embassy in Cuba and Americans won’t be able to go.

    If the US wants to influence events in Cuba to correct the things you are concerned about, is the best way to cut off all of our economic and cultural ties there or is it best to be able to leverage the power of international trade to achieve our political goals?

    Think about it for one minute. Russia wants to control and influence the activities of its neighbors like Ukraine, the Baltics, Poland and the whole EU. Putin doesn’t throw up an embargo and cut off all of his economic influence in those countries. He actually tries to increase trade with them because economic influence equals political influence. We played the embargo card over 50 years ago and we have failed to cause any changes in Cuba while denying American companies and farmers access to a market they once dominated. In my opinion (you certainly can disagree) we should try something else. A little more carrot and not so much stick.

    Liked by 1 person

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