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US travelers: Go to Cuba while you can still get there

Reuters/Desmond Boyland
Made it.
By Leslie Josephs
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

You’re already too late to go to Cuba “before it changes.” Instead, just worry about how you’ll get there.

US airlines are retreating from the island, less than a year after debuting the first commercial service in more than 50 years on the once-forbidden routes.

Florida-based Silver Airways said it will end its service to Cuba by April 22, less than a year after the US government awarded it permission to serve nine routes (pdf), more than any other US airline received. But weak demand and a flood of competition from large carriers have changed its plans. Silver Airways won approval to operate small 34-seat planes, while big rivals like American and Southwest were authorized to operate their more than 140-seat jets.

“It is not in the best interest of Silver and its team members to behave in the same irrational manner as other airlines,” the airline told Quartz in a statement.

Denver-based Frontier Airlines also announced it would end its Miami to Havana service in June, because of weak demand.

They’re not the first airlines to cool on Cuba. American Airlines late last year said it would reduce service to Cuba from the US from 13 daily flights to 10, while JetBlue said it would use smaller aircraft to service US-Cuba routes.

Tourists are still flying to Cuba in droves to slurp the mojitos and gawk at the classic cars. The island took in a record 4 million tourists last year, an increase of 13% from 2015.

But there are still hurdles for US travelers to visit the island. Carriers had high hopes that the restoration of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the US in 2015, which knocked down a travel ban to the island, would mean packed planes. But the US government still forbids traditional tourism: US travelers must obtain a license by fulfilling one of 12 government approved reasons for visiting the island, such as education or humanitarian work–not sunbathing.

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