HAVANA — A group of young Cuban entrepreneurs say a phone app they developed over a year ago may help U.S. travelers now that the Trump administration has restricted all flights to Cuban cities except the capital, Havana.
The Uber-like app called “Sube,” (which loosely translates to "hop in") allows travelers to reserve a car to pick them up at José Martí International Airport in Havana and take them to another part of the island; some provinces are as much as five or six hours away.
Claudia Cuevas Alarcón, 27, Damián Martín, 26, and Darién González, 27, launched the app a year ago to allow Cubans to use their phone to find nearby taxis and negotiate a price.
“We knew the trouble people go through in Cuba to get to work every day, to get home, or if they just want to go out,” Alarcón, who is also licensed to work in the tourism business, said.
In Cuba, a ride-hailing app may help U.S. visitors reach provinces far from the capital now that the Trump admin. ended commercial flights outside Havana. By @OrlandoMatosp and Roberto Leon in Havana. pic.twitter.com/B5I2eccr4D
The app, which has been downloaded 10,000 times and has 6,000 registered users, was launched after the government began offering mobile internet access in December 2018. Sube's drivers are required to be licensed and have their cars in top shape — something essential when traveling long distances in a country where most cars tend to be old.
The restrictions on flights were another rollback of the friendlier relationship that former President Barack Obama began with Cuba in 2014. Obama restored direct commercial flights to Cuba in 2016, making it easier for U.S. travelers — particularly Cuban Americans who visit relatives in provinces far from Havana — to travel there.
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But in October, President Donald Trump’s administration announced it would ban all U.S. flights to Cuba outside of Havana, effective Dec. 9.
Now that those commercial flights have been canceled, travelers have been left with only private charter alternatives, which can be more expensive on airfares and luggage as well as more unreliable at times.
The news gave the young entrepreneurs the idea to expand their services.
The app, registered in the United States, allows travelers to reserve a ride and pay with their credit cards before reaching Cuba — a convenience, since U.S. credit cards cannot be used on the island. Once in Cuba, the payments need to be made in cash.