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Flight prices to Cuba could drop 50% after Obama's visit

Brittany Jones-Cooper
President Obama's visit to Cuba marks the first trip by a sitting U.S. president to Cuba in 88 years.

President Obama is continuing his historic visit to Cuba by meeting with President Raul Castro this week.

This visit could put the U.S. one step closer to lifting all travel restrictions to Cuba, and if things go as planned, traveling to the Caribbean island nation will not only get easier, but less expensive for Americans.

According to research conducted by Hopper, flight prices from the U.S. to Cuba could drop 50% if all travel restrictions are lifted between the two countries. Currently, the average price of a round-trip flight originating in the U.S. to Cuba costs $717, and flights can only be booked if the traveler fits into one of the 12 categories for legal travel as outlined by the the U.S. government.

However, if Cuba is opened up, Hopper predicts that the average round-trip flight will drop to $364, with nonstop flights from Miami to Cuba hovering around a projected $275.

Currently, the only way for Americans to find an affordable flight to Cuba is to fly through another country like Mexico or Canada. For instance, by connecting through Mexico City, the average ticket from the U.S. to Cuba is $576, or about 20% cheaper.

Another factor that will dramatically impact the price of airfare is increased airline competition.

In February, the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced that it would allow for 20 daily flights in and out of Havana, with airlines bidding to be among the selected carriers. Officials predict that the airlines will be announced this summer, and flights will start in the fall.

But the airlines want more, with American Airlines (AAL) and JetBlue (JBLU) both pushing the DOT for more daily flights. For travelers, airlines adding capacity will almost certainly result in lower and more competitive fares. 

After Obama announced a normalizing of relations between the U.S. and Cuba in December 2014, many Americans have added a visit to the country to their bucket lists. In fact, Hopper reports that flight search interest is up more than 500% compared to last year.

Other travel companies are eager to get in the new market as well. Priceline (PCLN) announced a deal with Cuba on Monday, becoming the first U.S online travel agency to make Cuban hotel rooms available to U.S. travelers through its subsidiary Booking.com. The deal will go into effect in a few weeks, and as long as travelers can certify that they fit into one of the government’s approved categories, they can reserve rooms at Cuban and foreign hotels on the island. Starwood Hotels (HOT) also struck a deal to become the first American hotel chain in more than 50 years to run hotels in Cuba.

Until this announcement, Airbnb was the only American booking service available to find lodging accommodations in Cuba.

Do you have questions about traveling to Cuba? Email us at yfmoneymailbag@yahoo.com.