MIAMI -- Fears that the Trump administration will ban all flights to Cuba have sparked a spike in demand for tickets to the island, according to employees of travel agencies in Miami.
"We have seen a strong increase in the demand for tickets. There's a lot of fear because people believe that at any moment the flights will end and they will not be able to see their relatives any more," said Maritza Diaz, an employee of CubaTur, an agency based in Cutler Bay that sells tickets to Cuba.
Diaz estimated that she's selling double the normal number of tickets to the island.
The Department of State last week asked the White House to prohibit charter flights from the United States to nine Cuban provincial airports starting March 10. Only flights to Havana will still be allowed. The Department of Transportation will also put a limit on the total number of annual flights to the Cuban capital.
In Miami, home to the largest Cuban community outside the island, there's fear that all flights to Cuba will eventually be eliminated. The Trump administration eliminated all commercial airline flights to the same nine cities in November. They included large cities such as Santa Clara, Camaguey and Santiago de Cuba.
Diaz said that even if the U.S. government bans all flights to the island, that will not stop Cubans living in the United States from traveling to the island. The Bush administration banned flights to Cuba, she said, "and people continued to go" via third countries.
In 2004, President George W. Bush, trying to push Havana to adopt changes, limited Cubans' travel to the island to once every three years. He also restricted remittances to $100 per month, and only to spouses, parents, children and grandparents. Those restrictions were lifted after Barack Obama became president in 2008.
Elena Argudin, a Cuba native who has been living in Homestead for four years and still has many relatives on the island, said she fears the deteriorating U.S.-Cuba relations "will put more obstacles" on the possibility of visiting her family.
"I left my elderly parents in Cuba. My mother is 78 years old and my father is 81. If they stop the flights, they will die from sadness from not seeing me. I call them every day," she said.
Argudin came to Florida eight years ago, after traveling through much of Latin America and crossing several borders. She travels back to Cuba "at least two times" every year, and sends money back to her parents on the island.