Lifting Cuba travel embargo would cut flight costs almost 50%

Patrick Surry - May. 7, 2015

Summary:

  • American travel to Cuba is still highly restricted even after recently announced steps towards normalization of relations between the two countries

  • For most travelers in the US, the only way to visit Cuba is a lengthy, expensive, indirect trip via a third country, such as Canada, Mexico or various Caribbean destinations.

  • From a typical US origin, the best indirect option is via Cancun for a total of just over $700 round trip.

  • Direct round trip flights from Miami to Havana, restricted to licensed travelers only, are currently priced from $500+ round trip, though data is sparse

  • Although the US Congress is unlikely to lift the travel embargo in the near future, we predict that doing so would cut the typical cost of visiting Cuba almost in half, to about $375 round trip, based on current prices to nearby destinations.

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Figure 1: Map of Cuba and the vicinity, showing Havana (HAV) and Varadero (VRA), the two largest Cuban airports along with major destinations and possible transit points nearby.

City Country Good deal price Distance (miles) Hopper Guide
Georgetown Cayman Islands $310 264 GCM-HAV
Cancun Mexico $324 316 CUN-HAV
Nassau Bahamas $392 343 NAS-HAV
Mexico City Mexico $409 1,100 MEX-HAV
Toronto Canada $443 1,430 YYZ-VRA
Hamilton Canada $454 1,394 YHM-VRA
Montreal

Canada $468 1,609 YUL-VRA
Regina Canada $480 2,268 YQR-VRA
Halifax Canada $508 1,817 YHZ-VRA
Santo Domingo Dominican Republic $517 881 SDQ-HAV

Table 1: Cheapest nonstop routes to Cuba. Canada is a major transit point, with relatively cheap options given the distance from Cuba. Several options under $400 are available much closer to Cuba.

To estimate how much direct flights from the US to Cuba might cost if the travel embargo was lifted, we looked at the typical round-trip cost from the US to nearby destinations (Table 3), as well as specifically from Miami (Table 4).

Airport City Country Good deal price from US
NAS Nassau Bahamas $366
GCM Georgetown Cayman Islands $452
CUN Cancun Mexico $384

Table 3: Round-trip cost from a typical US origin to destinations near Cuba.  The weighted average price-point is $386.

AirportCityCountryGood deal priceDistance from Miami (miles)
NASNassauBahamas$307184
HAVHavanaCuban/a235
GCMGeorgetownCayman Islands$419454
CUNCancunMexico$359531
KINKingstonJamaica$333587

Table 4:  Round-trip cost and distance from Miami to destinations near Cuba, ranked by distance from Miami.  The demand-weighted average price-point (ignoring distance) is $350, so a target price somewhat below that seems reasonable.

Methodology

The data presented in this analysis comes from Hopper’s combined feed of Global Distribution Service (GDS) data sources which includes billions of trips per day. Demand is represented as the number of queries not actual ticket purchases, and is calibrated across all GDS sources for each market.

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