14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 17 January 2018 — The new air route that connects Cuba with Trinidad and Tobago, inaugurated last Saturday, began while both countries are negotiating new immigration regulations for Cubans, who currently do not need visas to visit that country.
After the round of negotiations between the governments of both countries in the middle of last year, and with this new direct connection by air, the Cuban community on Trinidadian territory is worried that new requirements will be imposed on their relatives who wish to visit them.
For now, the new Caribbean Airlines schedule, with a frequency of twice a week, fills a vacuum of direct flights between both nations. Previously, travelers had to make a stopover on the small Dutch island of Aruba or in Panama City and fly the flagship company of that country, Copa Airlines, with fares over $500 per ticket.
“It is now possible that Copa will lower prices because previously it had no competition for travel to Cuba,” predicts Kenia Montes de Oca, a Cuban living in Port of Spain who is hoping to regularize her residence there with refugee status.
Although the authorities of Trinidad and Tobago do not require visas for Cubans, at the airport immigration officials can deport anyone they suspect of wanting to stay illegally, a practice that has been increasing after the immigration talks held in August of last year, according to complaints from travelers compiled by this newspaper.
Montes de Oca remembers that before the direct route existed, trips through Aruba or Panama sometimes presented problems, diversions or delays.
The new service will make the trip between Cuba and Trinidad and Tobago shorter and faster, although Caribbean Airlines fares are still high compared to other destinations in the region, 14ymedio was able to confirm.
A round-trip ticket with no additional baggage fees for trips before the end of January costs roughly $752, while making the reservation for a trip nine months in advance yields a savings of only $50.
Flights to Cancun or Miami from Havana can often be purchased for under $200, but with the drawback that both Mexico and the United States require arriving Cubans to have a visa.
“I traveled to Trinidad and Tobago for the first time at the end of last year,” says Pavel, a 28-year-old Cienfuegos resident who explores shopping malls for purchases that he later resells in Cuba. “I didn’t make any money because at that time there were no direct flights and the ticket was very expensive.”
Pavel also points out that the exchange rate (1 triniteño dollar is equivalent to 0.14 US dollar) “is not favorable.” In addition, in Cuba the dollar is subject to a 13% tax, which makes the operation even more expensive.
“Obtaining a Mexican visa is very complicated for me because I was once deported from that country when I was trying to reach the border with the United States,” the merchant says. “So I have to continue with this route even if I don’t get that much business,” he adds.
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