TORONTO — Air Canada is set to resume flights to Cuba starting in September, teeing up the destination for a possibly healthy winter season.
Speaking exclusively with Travelweek, Air Canada Vacations’ Managing Director, Nino Montagnese, confirms that flights from Toronto and Montreal to Cayo Coco will resume next month, with additional destinations in Cuba to be announced in the coming weeks.
Additionally, Air Canada Vacations is currently working with the Muthu Rainbow hotel in Cayo Coco on special LGBT departures in December from both Toronto and Montreal, with connections from across Canada.
On the importance of reopening Cuba, Montagnese says: “Cuba has always been a key strategic destination for Air Canada Vacations. Canadians have always enjoyed safe travel to Cuba. The Cuban government has implemented all the right safety protocols to keep our customers safe. When you include Air Canada CleanCare+, we are confident our customers are in good hands.”
The news comes on the heels of Transat’s announcement of its winter 2020/2021 program, which will include direct flights to various Cuban gateways from Montreal, Toronto and Quebec City. Travelweek has learned exclusively that direct flights to Cayo Coco from Montreal and Toronto will begin as early as Sept. 4. The resumption dates for other Cuban destinations, including Cayo Largo, Holguin and Santa Clara, will be unveiled shortly.
Cuba first lifted its travel restrictions on July 1, reopening hotels in the Cayos – Cayo Santa María, Cayo Guillermo, Cayo Coco, Cayo Cruz and Cayo Largo del Sur – to international tourists only. This means that local Cubans (with the exception of hotel workers) are not permitted to enter the Cayos, and international tourists (when they’re finally able to fly to Cuba) will not be permitted to leave the Cayos during their stay.
Travelweek spoke with Lessner Gomez, Director of the Cuba Tourist Board in Toronto, about what will be required for Canadians and all tourists when flights finally resume. He confirmed that all international visitors will be required to take a free PCR COVID-19 test upon arrival at the airport as well as undergo temperature checks and wear a mask at the airport and during their transfers. Visitors will await their results, which will take approximately 24 hours, at their designated hotel; if positive, they will be transferred to a small hospital in the area where they will receive treatment.
Mandatory pre-testing, as has been the trend in other Caribbean destinations, will not be required.
To read more of our interview with Gomez, including Cuba’s new health & safety protocols and a possible new insurance package in the works, check out the lead story in Travelweek’s Aug. 6 issue here.