For the first time in history, an online travel company has been fined by U.S. regulators. The company was charged for booking trips between the United States and Cuba. This is in violation of a 45-year-old embargo.
The U.S. treasury department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said that Travelocity.com violated the prohibition nearly 1,500 times from January 1998 to April 2004. Their complaint said that Travelocity “provided travel-related services in which Cuba or Cuban nationals had an interest by arranging air travel and hotel reservations to, from, with or within Cuba” without a license from the office. Travelocity.com paid $182,750 earlier this month to settle the complaint.
The office grants licenses to dozens of travel-service providers for approved trips to and from Cuba for everything from academic, religious, and journalistic activities to humanitarian projects and visits to immediate family. However, at this time, the company has not applied for a license.
According to Travelocity spokesperson Joel Frey, these illegal trips were booked as a result of technical failures which occurred several years ago. Says Frey, “In no way did the company intend to allow bookings for trips to Cuba, and the company has fully co-operated with OFAC and implemented corrective measures.”