Update: Airlines Drop Cuba Flights, Citing Lower Demand Than Anticipated


Regularly scheduled passenger jet service to Cuba had been cut off for more than 50 years. Americans who wanted to go there had to go through third countries or take expensive charter flights that were notorious for long delays and steep baggage fees.

President Barack Obama renewed diplomatic relations with Cuba in 2015, and then brought back commercial airline travel last year. The companies that were authorized by the Department of Transportation booked routes not just to Havana, but also to less traveled cities such as Manzanillo and Holguín. With no history of commercial airline traffic to judge by, the airlines were largely guessing how many United States citizens and Cubans would line up for tickets.

United Airlines has service from Newark and Houston, and Alaska Airlines flies to Havana from Los Angeles. Delta offers three daily flights to Havana from Atlanta, Miami and Kennedy International Airport in New York. Destinations like Santa Clara proved to be less popular than the airlines had hoped, and some were forced to scale back.

“We started pretty big in Cuba,” said Laura Masvidal, a spokeswoman for American Airlines. “We made some adjustments to adjust to the market demand.”

Until February, American Airlines offered 1,920 seats a day to Cuba. The number dropped last month to 1,472, a nearly 25 percent reduction. The airline cut flights to Holguín, Santa Clara and Varadero to one daily flight from two, Ms. Masvidal said.

JetBlue Airways, which on Aug. 31 was the first to fly to Cuba, still offers nearly 50 weekly round-trip flights between the United States and four Cuban cities, but the airline recently switched to smaller planes.

“We have made some adjustment to aircraft types assigned to the routes, which is common as we constantly evaluate how to best utilize our aircraft fleet within our network,” said Doug McGraw, an airline spokesman.

Silver Airways has been flying 22 flights a week with smaller aircraft to nine Cuban destinations other than the capital, including Santa Clara, Holguín and Cayo Coco. Demand, Ms. Pinson said, was depressed by complications with online travel agency distribution and code-share agreements that still have not been resolved. The airline had already tried reducing its offerings.

The airline’s decision comes even as passenger traffic to Cuba is actually increasing at a brisk pace.

“The market is exploding,” said Chad Olin, the president of Cuba Candela, which specializes in booking trips to Cuba for the millennial traveler. “There is some demand adjustment happening as well, but net outcome is still one of the fastest growing markets in global tourism history.”

Mr. Olin said restaurants, bars and private home rentals are now much more crowded with Americans than even just a few months ago. “You hear American English spoken everywhere,” he said in an email.

And to hear the Cuban government media tell it, Americans interested in visiting Cuba were triggered by a message that told everyone to “travel now.”

The number of Americans who visited Cuba was up 125 percent in January, compared with the same month last year, the government reported, calling it a “virtual stampede.” Americans, the report said, were prompted by President Trump’s administration calling for a total review of the Cuba policies enacted by Mr. Obama.

Under the administration of George W. Bush, Cuban-Americans were limited to how often they could visit their families, so that niche also had a 38 percent increase, the Cuban media report said.

But it was still not enough to fill the flights.

“I think that a lot of airlines thought that there would be more demand than there is,” said Paul Berry, a spokesman for Spirit airlines, which flies twice a day to Havana from Fort Lauderdale. “Loads are not very heavy.”

Mr. Berry said there are still glitches, including not being able to easily use American credit cards. Cuban hotels are pricey, and some travelers are turned off by the extra costs for things like required traveler’s medical insurance and visas. The landing fees alone, Mr. Berry said, are sometimes more expensive than the actual airfare.

American citizens are still required to report which of the 12 authorized types of travel they are undertaking, which could also be limiting the number of potential passengers, he said. Religious and educational trips are allowed, but tanning on the beach is not. Many Americans are “not willing to flat-out lie” about why they are going, Mr. Berry said.

“A lot of people are not traveling; I think that’s why you see other airlines scale back,” he said. “There’s just not as much demand to go around.”

Continue reading the main story

Source link


What's Your Reaction?

Cute
0
Cute
Fail
0
Fail
Geeky
0
Geeky
Lol
0
Lol
Love
0
Love
OMG
0
OMG
Win
0
Win
Wtf
0
Wtf
Yaaas
0
Yaaas

Comments 0

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

log in

Captcha!

reset password

Back to
log in
Choose A Format
Personality quiz
Trivia quiz
Poll
Story
List
Open List
Ranked List
Meme
Video
Audio
Image