back to article Travelocity accidentally books 1,458 trips between US and Cuba

From January 1998 to April 2004, Travelocity booked nearly 1,500 trips between the US and Cuba, violating a trade embargo first laid down by the American government at the height of the Cold War. The online travel site has agreed to pay a $182,750 fine to the US Treasury, but communism is still alive in the Western Hemisphere …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tarring us all with the same brush

    Out of amusement, I went to both Travelocity and Expedia's Canadian sites.

    Neither one of them allowed me to fly from Canada to Cuba citing American Government regulations.

    I didn't realize that MY ability to fly from Canada as a Canadian was also curtailed by Uncle Sam (or do I mean George).

  2. JeffyPooh Silver badge

    "Land of the Free"

    Can you explain that "free" bit again? You know, the Tea+Harbour thing? Yeah, thanks.

  3. Jason Togneri

    Re: Tarring us all with the same brush

    Well, I can't be bothered checking so I'm going to assume that those are US companies. In which case, regardless of which countries they operate to and from, they are bound by both local regulations and by the laws of the country in which their headquarters is based (this is why corporate HQs often relocate elsewhere).

    In that case, the reason why you, as a Canadian citizen, are not allowed to fly from Canada to Cuba is because you're trying to use a US carrier to do so, but any US company is banned from doing so - regardless of where they fly from. Try your search from Canadian- or foreign-owned flight companies and see what happens.

    Of course, since I haven't done any research, I can't be sure of ownership, in case that could be a great big load of utter crap.

  4. paul brain

    Re: Tarring us all with the same brush

    Jason is quite correct, just try getting a flight to Cuba from London via last minute now that they are owned by Travelocity, which is owned by private equity firm Texas Pacific group and you'll see how far Uncle Sam's reach extends.

    Got to find a new name for him, he's NOT my uncle.

  5. James Minney

    @ jason - that's asking too much

    Visiting a foreign website is adventurous enough - asking the correspondent to try a foreign _carrier_ is pushing it a bit don't you think?

  6. Matthew

    Keep the Yanks out of Cuba

    Cuba is an unspoilt 3rd world paradise full of happy healthy people.

    Sure, the government is odious, and stops the people having the basic necessities such as iPods and Nike trainers, but they have a lot more freedom than those on the American portion of the island.

    It's great to have a Caribean paradise unspoilt by the world's giant 2 year-old with it's destructive temper-tantrums.

  7. Duncan Hothersall

    Good lord

    I had no idea that the US banned people from travelling to Cuba. What is that meant to achieve? Presumably they allow phonecalls? And how do they stop people going to the Bahamas or Jamaica or Mexico and then to Cuba?

    "These Romans are crazy."

  8. Jeff Deacon

    @ paul - Uncle Who?

    Neither was Uncle Joe (Stalin) my uncle. Perhaps using "uncle" is a way to avoid calling them godfather?

  9. Chris Morrison

    @Matthew

    Have you ever been to Cuba?

    Yes it has healthcare and education but it's also got severe poverty and hunger. It isn't some idylic paradise and is very much a third world country. Lots of people say it's the only country where communism 'almost' worked. The important bit in that sentence is the 'almost'.

    Chris

  10. Keith Martin

    PCs Too?

    Would this apply to PC manufacturers too? Surely the machines these people used to book the flights were made by a US-owned company (at least some of them). Who's going to grass on them?

    In fact, I used a Dell laptop to organise and book a 15 person trip to Cuba just last year. Maybe accounting "issues" won't be Michael Dell's only problem shortly ;-)

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Chris Morrison

    Have you ever been to the USA?

    No, it doesn't have healthcare or education but it has got both poverty and a lot of very fat people. It isn't some idylic paradise and is very much an invader of third world countries. Lots of people say it's the only country where capitalism 'almost' worked. The important bit in that sentence is the 'almost'.

  12. John

    UK problem as well

    Trying to recall, but i'm pretty sure the goverment got quite pissed off when it turned out that american companies operating in the UK were discriminating against Cubans.

    I think the Hilton hotel was an example, where they refused to accept anyone who had flown from Cuba.

    May be worth contacting someone about lastminute.com

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @MahatmaCoat

    Whatever you think of the US I think it is safe to say that capitalism has worked out pretty well for them.

    Communism in Cuba hasnt worked out so well despite the fact that they had massive funding from the Russians specifically to make it a shining example of how great communism is.

    Its a very naive view (though popular) to think of it as some kind of 3rd world paradise.

  14. Chris Morrison

    MahatmaCoat

    Good reply!

    Made me smile. I hate the USA as much as the next person! ...and truth be told I've never been to el USA and have no real desire to go either.

    Chris

  15. John

    Aha, Found it

    Yeah found one of the articles,

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/cuba/story/0,,2024704,00.html

    In short, Hilton banned some Cuban organisation from the hotel in Oslo, which applied to all European Hotels, large backlash, with many groups boycotting them.

    Then followed by Hilton repealing the ban (based on that it was discriminatory).

    Shows that pressure can have these descisions reversed.

  16. Garth

    Silly people.

    "Cuba is an unspoilt 3rd world paradise full of happy healthy people."

    This explains the constant stream of Floridians trying to get to Cuba on Make-shift rafts.

    "Whatever you think of the US I think it is safe to say that capitalism has worked out pretty well for them."

    No, it hasn't. The economy is being propped up by China's economic boom (they need a market so they keep us solvent). An economy based on the assumption infinite growth potential cannot be sustained. And I predict speculation will kill it within 50 years unless something truly remarkable happens.

    Incidentally, "Uncle Sam" is a phrase that has gone out of favor. "King George" is something I find more fitting for the last 7 years or so.

    I find it amusing the bashing the US receives from Brits. And you accuse 'Merikans of being ignorant of history.

  17. Steven

    Mr President el Cabron!

    And which country do you think has done more than any other to keep Cuba the way it is?

    Yes you guessed it, those good 'ole boys in the US of A, perhaps without 50 years of trade embargo's Cuba wouldn't be the way it is. Perhaps if the US concentrated on matters a little closer to home rather than persecuting a Caribbean island < 100 miles away the people of Cuba would have a better standard of living. And before someone trots out the Cuban missile crisis as an excuse, this all started way before that happened.

  18. Dillon Pyron

    Americans to Cuba?

    Sure, I could do it if I wanted to take the chance. It's really pretty easy, takes a little extra work and requires lots of cash. And that might be the sticking point. You can sneak into Cuba, but sneaking out of the US with more than $10,000 is a little harder to do, and even more frowned upon.

    Reports from my Canadian friends are that the diving isn't what it was even 5 years ago.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Title

    So much for the USA being a free country. The only people allowed to go to Cuba are those running Guantanamo Bay... er the American Government, who run the best justice system in the world... except the one in Guantanamo Bay.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Title

    So much for the USA being a free country. The only people allowed to go to Cuba are those running Guantanamo Bay... er the American Government, who run the best justice system in the world... except the one in Guantanamo Bay.

  21. Andy Davies

    Canadians?

    when I was in Cuba "Canadians" were allowed to have their entry/ exit stamps on a piece of plain paper slipped into their "Canadian" passports. On exit there was also a bin provided at the boarding gate where they were reminded to dump their flight tickets in case they forgot and took them back to "Canada" with them.

    <bg> AndyD 8-)#

  22. Shaun Vizer

    Cuban ban

    I find it laughable that the USA still enforces their ban of anything Cuban; the political grudge and the whole Cuban Missile Crisis is long over, strange the holding on to something that whilst historic and am sure at the time was quite frightening is now very much old hat.

    As to yank-bashing, brits aren't the only people to hold that particular title. Us Aussies do partake in that past-time :)

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Anonymous

    Capitalism in the US has worked out for some but in any system that gauges success by the number of winners it will implicitly include rather large amounts of losers.

    Cuba did get rather generous amounts of Russian aid but given the multiple attempts by the US to sabotage the Cuban economy (crop burning, manipulating global sugar prices, banning imports, etc.) and the many attempts to destabilise the place (multiple unsuccessful and ludicrous attempts to kill Castro, the planned Project Northwood black flag ops, etc.) I think they've done rather well. Lesser nations would have capitulated long before.

    I think Jim Hightower summed up the whole thing rather well when he said: "Ironically, Reagan's official rationale for his Grenada assault was that Cuban commies were on the island. This is ironic because the Cubans are still there. Reagan brought war to the island, then left, the Cubans came back and, far from being a menace, have helped the impoverished Grenadians with such basic needs as building a new hospital. If any members of Ollies tourist brigade get sick, they could be treated there for free. Now there's a lesson in international relations: Make health, not war."

  24. Chris

    Hypocrisy

    This is what I love... The U.S. government calls Cuba communist and makes them out to be one of the most evil countries in the world. We don't even allow our citizens to go there. Unless they happen to be athletes or celebrities, of course. They can go all they want (unless it's Michael Moore). Perhaps these Travelocity bookings were for them? Either way, it's pure hypocrisy to allow athletes to travel to Cuba but not the common citizen.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Details about ban on travel to Cuba.

    Technically, it's not illegal for US citizens to go to Cuba. They are outside of US jurisdiction, and the US isn't legally at war with Cuba. That's the freedom part. Hooray for us! However, it is illegal to spend money in Cuba. The government claims jurisdiction over commerce. The gotcha, for those of you who are saying, "Well, how can they prove I spent money there?" is that the law is written so that spending time in Cuba is considered proof of having spent money there.

    But, the law is on really, really shaky ground. It's not really been tested in court as it's applied to individuals. What will happen, if you get caught and choose to fight it, is the US government will press charges. You get a lawyer. A few years, and major legal fees later, they quietly drop the case or settle with you for a nominal fine. But, you still paid a major fine, just to your lawyers instead of the government. The deterrent effect is still there, 99% of US citizens are still scared to go, the law was not overturned, and the Cuban people are still desperately poor because of their bad, bad government.

    Why does the US care about Cuba anymore? Is it because it has an authoritarian government accused of human rights violations? Right. That's why they also make travel illegal to China, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, etc., etc. The government cares because there are a lot of dispossessed Cubans who live in Florida. It's a very important state in national politics, evenly balanced between parties. Those Cubans seem to think that once Castro's gone, they will be able to move back, get all of their property back, and start ruling the country again. They will vote against anyone who even tries to suggest that the days of Batista won't return and we should make peace with the current government.

    So, the US will patiently wait until Castro dies, then try to quietly overthrow the communist government. The Cubans in Florida are happy. Whoever gets elected "Leader of the Free World" because he won Florida is happy. The rest of the people in the US really couldn't care one way or the other. The people in Cuba are miserable, but that must be their fault for having a bad, bad government. The world keeps turning.

  26. Dan Caugherty

    It's the electorate, stupid

    Two words: Florida voters.

    Let me explain. There are a humongous number of (first- and second-generation) Cuban exiles in Florida. They'll do anything to subvert the Castro government, no matter how nefarious or tacky.

    (Remember the sheer tastelessness of Elian Gonzales' relatives in Miami, when they battered the kid with gifts to show the media how wonderful they were? You couldn't miss it on US TV at the time. Sales of ipecac plummeted that week.)

    These people, sadly, vote. And our politicians know it.

  27. Steve P

    Going to Cuba

    For someone subject to U.S. Law (i.e. a citizen or foreign national residing in the U.S.) they need to have permission from the Treasury department to travel to Cuba. (I looked it up late last year)

    I went to Cuba at the start of this year, and Cuba does not stamp passports: apparently it causes trouble for people who then travel to the U.S., only to be turned away at the border.

    I suspect the U.S. administration will stay 'annoyed' at Cuba until restitution has been made: Castro nationalised all U.S. company-held assets in a tit-for-tat trade retaliation, so some very wealthy U.S.-based families ended up losing lots of money. (The Bacardi family spring to mind)

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