Opening up the island

Kayak adds Cuba to its flight and hotel search

A sign that U.S. travel restrictions to Cuba are easing: Travel site Kayak now lets users find flights from the U.S. to the island and browse 300 hotels.

The move comes a month after President Obama signaled his intent to ease trade with Cuba and two weeks after the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Treasury issued new guidelines to facilitate that strategy.

A big caveat: Kayak is a travel search engine, not a booking site, so you cannot actually book any of the flights or hotels  — the listings are informational only. Baby steps, people. You can use also search Kayak now for flights from Europe to Havana, something that Travelocity and Expedia do not yet appear to support based on a quick online check

A Kayak search shows Aeromexico flights from from New York’s JFK to Havana’s José Martí International Airport with stops in Monterey and Mexico City. That would take 24 hours. Since it’s about 1,300 miles from NYC to Havana, a nonstop flight — if there were such a thing — would take just over three yours,  according to Travelmath calculations.

Interestingly, a Cayman Airways flight from Miami actually takes longer — 27 hours with two stops in the Caymans. That’s for a trip of about 228 miles as the crow flies which should take an hour. You can see why things need to change.

Kayak has seen a significant increase in interest in Cuban travel and is moving to make relevant information available, said Robert Birge, CMO of the Stamford, Connecticut–based company. It will soon add the same sort of direct booking links for its Cuban travel listings that are now available for other destinations.

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