Alaska Airlines’ Cuba Check-in Mess

Travel to Cuba is still not allowed for tourist purposes and you must fall within one of 12 categories for travel. Among the options are Medical, Professional, Research, Religious, and Journalism.

Havana, Cuba, from Alaska Airlines blog

Havana, Cuba, from Alaska Airlines blog

Because Alaska’s website makes sure to mention that you need to get a Visa before you travel, we made sure to order ours with plenty of time (over 3 weeks). We ordered it through an overseas travel company and they arrived!

In reality, the visa is just a travel card, which is required for entry to the country. You can buy them in some airports (like Panama for $20) but we bought ours from a travel agency in Italy for $45 each. Cuba Travel Services, which partners with Alaska, charges $145 in advance (85 + 35 processing fee BS + 25 overnight shipping BS) or $100 at the door. A total rip-off, so we were not about to pay that!

Once we approached the CTS desk and Cuba Travel Services saw these visas, they immediately told us that they wouldn’t work, as we needed a special pink colored visa. Mind you, these visas are EXACTLY the same, and we explained that. We had the receipt, we had the required stamp on the back, and yet they would not accept them.

Cuba Travel Services

Cuba Travel Services

If we wanted to get the “Cuba OK Travel” stamp on our boarding passes (which we need to fly) we would have to pay $100 each to get a new Visa from them. It’s a real racket, since they will not let you board without the stamp, and to get the stamp, you have to have their Visa. Pay, or don’t fly. Simple.

Cuba Travel Services Desk

Cuba Travel Services Desk

I suppose the one piece of good news is that this flight was full of VIP and corporate execs, so I had a lot of people from Alaska Airlines (and Cuba Travel Services) to talk to about their policies.

Once we landed in Cuba, we presented the Green Visa and were accepted through with no problem. I started researching this a little bit more when I got back and apparently the US consulate issues a special pink visa, while every other country uses a green visa. These pink visas can be purchased directly from the embassy in DC or through Cuba Travel Services. 

Green and Pink Cuban Visas

Green and Pink Cuban Visas

If you fly Southwest, they charge $50. Delta? $50. JetBlue? $50. But if you fly American, Frontier, United, or Alaska, you’re going to fork out $145. Never have I see one visa have different prices because of the airline that you fly on.

We still have the pink visa, and I’ll use it to get on the plane, but as long as the Cuban immigration officers continue to accept the green ones, maybe it makes sense to also buy one of those and use THAT if we’re going to back more than once.

What do you think? Should you be forced to by a different colored Visa even though they will accept either at Cuba’s immigration?

Author: Jon Nickel-D'Andrea

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5 Comments

  1. Yikes! Stark contrast to my experience with Southwest airlines and the $50 cost if ordered ahead or purchased at the airport!

    – AYP

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    • Everything cuba related is a rip off
      Trust me I am Cuban
      Cuban gvt comes up with the most ridiculous rules just to extort people ,
      Not worth going there as a tourist in my opinion

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  2. Alaska is not helping their reputation with crap like that. They need to watch themselves. I’m confident it did not ruin your trip, as you guys are professionals. Good read, by the way.

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  3. Are you sure your math adds up? According to Cuba Travel Services (I’m looking at their website right this minute) it’s $50 plus a $35 processing fee, which adds up to $85, then a shipping fee of as little as $25, totaling $110. To be sure, it’s a racket; no argument there. But I’m not sure how you came up with $145. Thanks for the article.

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    • Ah! So they lowered their price a little bit. How very interesting. Good catch 🙂

      Post a Reply

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  1. Alaska Airlines’ Havana Inaugural Flight Party | No Mas Coach! - […] in and got our boarding passes, we headed over to the Cuba Travel Services desk. More on that debacle…

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