Russia To Reopen Flights To Cuba

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The Cuban Ministry for Tourism announced today that it had reached agreements with three Russian charter operators to recommence services. Just in time for the start of the high-season, travelers from Russia, which make up a significant portion of tourists to Cuba, can once more visit the island. Meanwhile, Havana remains out of bounds.

Nordwind Airlines
Nordwind Airlines, the airline branch of charter company Pegas Touristik, is on its way back to Cuba starting next week. Photo: Getty Images

Three of Russia’s major tour companies

Three of Russia’s charter companies are set to restart flights to Cuba. Holidays are now bookable for Russian travelers with Pegas Touristik, Coral Travel, and ANEX Tours starting as early as next week. The holiday companies’ flights to the Caribbean island nation are operated by Russian leisure carriers Nordwind Airlines, Royal Flight Airlines, and Azur Air, respectively.

Cuba began its official tier-staged reopening to international travel back in July, with the popular northern keys of Cayo Largo Del Sur, Cayo Coco, Cayo Guillermo, Cayo Santa María, and Cayo Cruz, served by the airport on Cayo Coco. 

This is also where the Russian charter companies are now focusing their operations, although some flights will go to the popular destination of Varadero, which reopened on October 15th. Furthermore, Coral Travel will also fly to Holguin on the eastern part of the island.

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Coral Tours’ Royal Flight is one of the operators granted permission to return to Cuba. Photo: Getty Images

“Tourism corridors” and testing in place

Thirteen of Cuba’s sixteen provinces are now open to visitors. However, Havana remains closed, as the capital has just come out of a second wave of infections with stringent restrictions and a curfew as a result. Tourists will still need to adhere to “tourism corridors” to arrive at their selected destinations.

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All travelers that were eligible to journey to Cuba pre-pandemic may do so at this point. No quarantine is required. However, the ‘Island of Freedom’ implements a testing-on-arrival scheme for all international passengers. If testing positive, travelers were initially made to quarantine at facilities designated by the government but may now do so at a location of their choice.

Not in the rosiest of realities financially, even before the global health crisis, Cuba is heavily dependent on tourism and travel. In 2019, Russia was the fourth country in the number of visitors to the country. It is no wonder that the Cuban government is eager to re-welcome Russian tour companies as the usual high-season of November to March kicks off.

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Russia Cuba
Azur Air operates flights on behalf of ANEX Tours. Photo: Papas Dos via Wikimedia Commons

Tentatively reconnecting

Russia suspended all airlines to other countries on March 27th but has tentatively begun reopening air traffic. On October 6th, the government of the Russian Federation permitted airlines to recommence regular services to 24 countries and charter flights to a further six, Cuba, among them.

In turn, Cuba halted all international air traffic just a few days later, on March 31st. To date, the country has had 7,035 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 129 deaths due to the disease.

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