If you’ve been watching The Travel Channel ’s new show, “Airport 24/7: Miami” , you may recall the irate passenger who on the second episode, entitled "Category X," chews out an airport employee because her bag has been lost. (The show, which highlights what Miami International Airport  operations is all about, airs on Tuesday nights.)
Asked if she drinks Cuban coffee, the irate passenger snarls: "I don't do Cuban. I live in America!"
Hahahahaha!... Funny at first take, but pathetic when duly considered!
Meanwhile, last week’s episode—“Fuel Fire”—featured a piece called “You Can Fly to Cuba” .
As Terminal One Senior Agent Heidi Anthony explained: “Most people from the U.S. think you can’t fly to Cuba , but that’s not true. You can. It’s just not easy.”
She correctly points out that there are only a few U.S. airports that have flights to Cuba. In fact, the list is up from just three only two years ago to about 12, thanks to more liberal licensing by the Obama administration .
(If the Romney/Ryan  ticket win today’s election, you can kiss most of the flights goodbye, as the duo will undoubtedly cave in to demands by rabid right-wing Cuban-American legislators to tighten restrictions on travel to Cuba. See my blog post: “Romney Campaign Calls for Curtailing Travel to Cuba” .)
“But going to Cuba isn’t as simple as just going online, buying your ticket, printing it out, and showing up at the airport,” she adds.
“U.S. citizens need a reason to go to Cuba,” Anthony correctly points out. “You can't just go for your honeymoon. You have to have an academic license, for missionary work, government work, journalism, non-profit organizations, cultural exchanges, and if you are of Cuban origin you have to have family there."
In the background, Cubans arrive at check-in hauling more luggage than Imelda Marcos  after a shoe-shopping spree.
“To get on a flight to Cuba you have to come four or five hours early,” says Anthony. “They’ve got tons of luggage!"
“They’ve got everything but the kitchen sink,” adds Lauren Stover, the airport’s Security Director. “And there it is!” she adds, pointing to a sink wrapped in clear plastic wrap and en route to Cuba for a family member.
The camera then pans to show Cubans wearing multiple layers of clothing, and hats stacked one on top of another atop their heads... a creative way of getting around carry-on restrictions.
True enough. It’s enough to give you doubts about the ability of the plane to take off!
However, it’s a stretch to say that check-in procedures take five hours.
True, it pays to get there early. My groups always arrive four hours before take-off time to be safe. But average check-in time? Probably 30 minutes per person.
The flights are all charters licensed by the U.S. Treasury Department  to fly to Cuba. In my case, all have been chartered by Marazul  (a Miami-based company dedicated to facilitating legal Cuba travel), although the flights are actually operated by Delta Airlines  or SkyKing . Other companies utilize American Airlines  or United 
For complete information on how to travel to Cuba from the USA and international destinations such as Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Europe, buy my Moon Handbook Cuba —the most comprehensive, information-packed, traveler-friendly, and unbiased guidebook in print.
For further information on Havana, buy Moon Spotlight Havana .
Disclosure: I occasionally accept free or discounted travel when it coincides with my editorial goals. However, my opinion is never for sale. The opinions you see in Cuba & Costa Rica Journal are my unbiased reflection of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Learn more about Christopher P. Baker .
Copyright © Christopher P. Baker