September 14, 2011
By Mimi Whitefield, The Miami Herald
Island Travel & Tours plans to begin charter service from Tampa to Cuba in November and will begin a flight that connects the Washington, D.C., area to Havana in January, its owner said Tuesday.
Island Travel, which is moving from California to Tampa, plans weekly service on Sundays from Tampa International Airport, starting Nov. 6, said William Hauf, president and owner of the charter company.
It will be the third charter company flying from Tampa to Cuba. Xael Charters and ABC Charters, which are both based in South Florida, began charter service from Tampa last week, marking the first time in nearly 50 years that there has been air service between Tampa and Cuba.
The round-trip flight will cost $499. Hauf said he would be offering a different pricing schedule for luggage than the other charter companies. He’ll be charging $40 for the first 55-pound bag, then $60 each for the second and third bags. Other charter companies generally allow the first 44 pounds free, then charge $2 per pound for the remainder of the luggage.
Earlier this year, U.S. Customs and Border Protection added 12 cities to the three locations — Miami, New York, and Los Angeles — authorized to provide flights to Cuba. Flights from another of those new cities — Fort Lauderdale — begin Saturday when Airline Brokers Co. launches its nonstop service to Havana.
The U.S. embargo against Cuba, which has been on the books since the 1960s, prohibits flights by commercial airlines.
Hauf said he doesn’t have an exact date yet for his inaugural flight from Baltimore-Washington International Airport but plans it for January. “It will be the first time for a charter linking the two nations’ capitals together,’’ he said. “It’s a good connection point. . . . and perhaps over time it will lead to more dialogue between the two countries.’’