In the second half of last year we saw the major U.S. airlines begin selling tickets for flights to Cuba. It’s no surprise that so many U.S. carriers requested rights to operate routes to Cuba, given that it’s the first time in decades that such flights are possible. I took advantage of that opportunity, and visited Havana in December. I had an… interesting time. I’m happy to have seen Havana, but don’t need to return anytime soon.
However, I also think we’re going from one extreme to the other in terms of airline capacity. While there’s certainly interest among Americans in visiting Cuba, the actual demand isn’t there, at least not to fill the thousands of seats per day that are now operating between the U.S. and Cuba.
While there was a lot of enthusiasm at first, over the past couple of months we’ve heard a lot of airline executives say that they’re in Cuba for the long run, and they don’t plan on making money flying there in the foreseeable future.
In fairness, I suspect the performance on these routes varies significantly. For example, American may do reasonably well on flights between Miami and Havana, given that the flight covers a distance of just a couple of hundred miles, and they’re connecting big populations. On the other end of the spectrum, I can’t imagine how much money Alaska is losing on their daily Los Angeles to Havana flight.
As I expected from the very beginning, we’ve already seen some airlines cut back capacity to Cuba. American started by downgrading the planes they operate on several routes, and then eventually even canceled three daily frequencies to Cuba.
Well, it looks like the next airline to cut capacity to Cuba is JetBlue. Here’s a map of JetBlue’s routes to Cuba:
Starting May 3, 2017, JetBlue will be downgrading all their routes to Cuba:
- Flights to Havana will be downgraded from an A321 to an A320; this represents a reduction in capacity of 50 seats per flight (they’re going from 200 seats to 150 seats)
- Flights to all Cuban cities other than Havana will be downgraded from an A320 to an EMB190; this represents a reduction in capacity of 50 seats (they’re going from 150 seats to 100 seats)
Starting in May all JetBlue flights to Cuba will feature 50 fewer seats. This shouldn’t come as a surprise — expect the capacity cuts to continue.