It's hard to see how other airlines, hotels and cruise lines don't follow JetBlue's lead in issuing waivers on change fees and cancellations for itineraries to Cuba given the U.S. government's ill-conceived warning for travel to the Caribbean island. The warning looks like it will help reverse the Obama administration's loosening of restrictions on U.S. citizen travel to Cuba.
Reactions from the U.S. travel industry to the U.S. State Department’s warning that U.S. citizens should not travel to Cuba ranged from immediate to wait-and see.
Among them, JetBlue immediately offered to waive change and cancellation fees on its flights to Cuba while Royal Caribbean Cruises insisted that the reported sonic attacks on U.S. embassy personnel in Havana do not pose a risk to the cruise line’s passengers in Cuba.
American Airlines stated that there would be no changes in its Cuba policies for now, and that even includes its pending application with the U.S. Department of Transportation for more flights to the Caribbean island.
JetBlue immediately changed its approach to Cuba — at least temporarily.
“Due to the travel warning issued by the U.S. Department of State for travel to Cuba, JetBlue will waive change/cancel fees for customers with reservations booked on or before September 29, 2017,” the airline announced. “Changes may be made through November 1, 2017. Full details here.
ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISES
Royal Caribbean Cruises had this to say about the U.S. warning on Cuba travel: “We are aware that U.S. Embassy has published a travel warning for Cuba. Since the warning is due to the events that occurred in U.S. diplomatic residences and hotels frequented by U.S. citizens, we do not feel they pose a risk to our cruise passengers. Our guests explore Havana on escorted tours and do not visit hotels. We will continue to monitor the situation and will review any additional information that may be released.”
NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE
Vanessa Picariello, a spokeswoman for Norwegian Cruise Line said the line’s “cruises to Havana continue to operate as scheduled. The safety and security of our guests and crew is always our first priority and we continue to maintain the highest security standards as we do in all ports of call.
“There have been no reported incidents involving tourists or other cruise ship passengers. Reported incidents have been isolated to diplomats and government officials residing on the island. Our shore excursions and tour locations have been thoroughly evaluated and none are military owned or operated. The visa issuing process for our guests remains unchanged.”
Norwegian Cruise Line made the argument that cruising to Cuba is the best way to go. In June, the Trump administration put limits on hotel stays in Cuba, pending the U.S. Department of Treasury Office on Foreign Asset Control issue new travel-to-Cuba rules, which are overdue.
“We continue to believe that the best way to travel to Cuba is via cruise ship and look forward to continuing to offer our guests the opportunity to explore Cuba’s beauty, culture and friendly people,” Picariello said.
American Airlines spokesman Matt Miller said there has been “no adjustment to our Cuba service on account of developments today.”
American currently flies nine daily flights to five destinations in Cuba, including four from Miami to Havana, one from Charlotte to Havana, and one each from Miami to Camaguey, Cienfuegos, Holguin, Santa Clara and Varadero.
Miller said several weeks ago American applied to the U.S. Department of Transportation for additional frequencies from Miami to Cuba. He added that Miami is best-suited to capture travel demand from the U.S. to Cuba because more than 50 percent of Cuban-Americans reside in Miami-Dade County.
American’s application to the Department of Transportation is unaffected by Friday’s State Department announcement, he said.
Asked to react to the State Department travel warning to Cuba, Nick Papas, director of public affairs public relations at Airbnb stated:
“We always advise our hosts and guests to check for any travel warnings or travel advisories that may apply to their plans. We encourage Americans with plans to travel to Cuba to review the latest updates from the State Department. Consistent with US law, our operations in Cuba will continue — hosts will continue to have the chance to offer their homes and experiences to guests visiting the island. Additional safety tips can be found here.
TripAdvisor, meanwhile, declined to comment on the new U.S. government warning on travel to Cuba.
Skift Daily Newsletter
Get the travel industry’s daily must-read email 6 days a week
Tags: airlines, cruises, cuba, cuba travel, hotels
Photo credit: Pictured is Royal Caribbean's Empress of the Seas. The cruise line feels its passengers are safe in Cuba — despite a U.S. government travel warning for the Caribbean island. Royal Caribbean