August 16, 2007：In a first for an online travel company, Travelocity.com has been fined by federal regulators for booking trips between the U.S. and Cuba in violation of a 45-year-old embargo.
Travelocity.com paid $182,750 this month to settle a complaint brought by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which said the company violated the sanctions rules almost 1,500 times between January 1998 and April 2004.
Treasury’s complaint said 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 an OFAC license.”
The federal embargo-enforcement office has granted licenses to dozens of travel service providers for approved trips to and from Cuba for academic, religious or journalistic activities, humanitarian projects, family visits.
Travelocity spokesman Joel Frey said Wednesday the company had not applied for a license and did not intend to. “In no way did the company intend to allow bookings for trips to Cuba, and the company has fully cooperated with OFAC and implemented corrective measures.”
“The trips to Cuba were unintentionally permitted to be booked by consumers online because of some technical failures several years ago, and it’s just now being finally settled with OFAC,” Frey wrote in an e-mail. “In no way did the company intend to allow bookings for trips to Cuba, and the company has fully cooperated with OFAC and implemented corrective measures.”
The travel agency, based in Texas, is owned by Sabre Holdings Corp.. Its major competitors include Orbitz Worldwide Inc. and Expedia Inc., which owns Expedia.com, hotels.com and Hotwire.
None of those companies appear on OFAC´s approved list of travel service providers for Cuba.