People, Travel

US Booking Sites Slow to Offer Cuba Flights

US Booking Sites Slow to Offer Cuba FlightsUS Booking Sites Slow to Offer Cuba Flights

US airlines are now flying to Cuba after a half-century ban on travel there, but you wouldn’t know it from browsing any of the major travel-booking websites.

None of those behemoths—Expedia, Orbitz, Priceline, TripAdvisor, or Google Flights—offers air travel or lodging for Cuba, touted as one of the hottest new destinations thanks to more than 50 years of being off-limits to Americans.

So far, though, the big online travel companies have eschewed selling those flights. For one thing, it’s not a financial priority: As airlines have dramatically curbed commissions on ticket sales, online agencies’ margins from selling airfares have contracted, making lodging far more lucrative, Skift reported.

As for the big online travel agencies, “many of them are working on it”, said Emily Cullum, a spokeswoman for the Travel Technology  Association, the trade group that represents online travel agencies, but she gave no details on why Cuba commerce had proved vexing.

One likely reason these companies have been slow to embrace Cuba ticket sales is the welter of US regulatory stipulations that cover these itineraries, given the embargo. But like US airlines, ticket sellers bear no legal liability if a customer lies about his reason for a trip to Cuba. And industry experts say it’s unlikely the US government will audit Americans’ travel there.

The regulatory considerations have forced airlines and global distribution systems—the technology platforms that distribute airline, lodging and rental-car inventory to travel agents worldwide—to customize their booking pages for Cuba. That means programming new language and interfaces to account for the legal attestations travelers must make that they are eligible to travel to Cuba.

“The US Treasury Department also requires travel providers to retain customer information for at least five years on Cuba travel. Airlines are doing this and corporate lawyers are likely debating whether online travel agencies must, too,” said Jeff Klee, chief executive officer of