Two U.S. Airlines Are Cutting Flights To Cuba Altogether

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.

havana

Challenges with making Cuba profitable

However, 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.

Airlines have already cut capacity to Cuba

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. Then a bit over a month ago, JetBlue announced that they’re cutting capacity on all their Cuba routes, and downgrading planes on each of their routes — routes currently operated by A321s will be served by A320s, and routes currently served by A320s will be served by EMB190s.

havana-2

Two airlines are pulling out of Cuba altogether

For the first time since service between the U.S. and Cuba began, two airlines are pulling out of Cuba altogether, citing weak demand. Specifically:

  • Silver Airways will be discontinuing flights between Fort Lauderdale and Cuba as of April 22, 2017
  • Frontier Airlines will be discontinuing flights between Miami and Havana as of June 4, 2017

Per the Miami Herald, here’s what the airlines had to say about the cuts:

Fort Lauderdale-based Silver Airways said it had made “the difficult but necessary” decision to suspend all its Cuba service on April 22. It had originally hoped to serve all nine of the Cuban cities outside Havana that the U.S. Department of Transportation had authorized for regularly scheduled flights from the United States to Cuba.

Silver has been using 34-seat aircraft on its Cuba routes. But some of its recent flights from Fort Lauderdale to Varadero have been carrying just two or three passengers, according to Cuban Customs reports.

Frontier is canceling its Miami-Havana route on June 4 due to higher than anticipated costs and lower than expected demand. “Market conditions have failed to materialize there, and excess capacity has been allocated to the Florida-Cuba market,” the airline said in a statement.

No surprises there! What’s interesting is that Silver Airways claims that demand to Cuba is in line with what they projected, but the market has about 300% more capacity than it should have. If that’s the case, I’m not sure why they started service there to begin with — the amount of capacity to Cuba should have come as no surprise, as we saw airlines petition the DOT for the right to fly to Cuba.

The cuts will continue. The only question is which airline is next.

About lucky

Ben Schlappig (aka Lucky) is a travel consultant, blogger, and avid points collector. He travels about 400,000 miles a year, primarily using miles and points to fund his first class experiences. He chronicles his adventures, along with industry news, here at One Mile At A Time.

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Comments

  1. The one issue still not addressed by the airlines to customers is compliance/regulations. You cannot go there willy nilly according to the regulations, thus airlines cannot really advertise the fullest extent of the Cuba being a ‘for-all’ destination. Customers either are nervous about going there, even after knowing the new method of regulations, or they still think the old regulations are still in effect.

  2. Wow!!! What a surprise!!! (sarcasm). The place is a dump, people are still being explored by the Communist party but our former president thought he had to be nice to everyone. Funny that it did not take the current president to do anything but the airlines figured out by themselves that it was a bad decision.

  3. Hey Lucky I got a question. Who will be able to get the spot being left open by F9 leaving HAV? Will jetblue finally be able to get the BOS flight that they want?

  4. Funny that two airlines quit at the same time. It’s like when Jennifer Garner and Jennifer Aniston announce divorces on the same day to divert media attention.

  5. Neither of these surprise me – Silver is flying to smaller cities that have even less demand than HAV, and Frontier isn’t exactly a household name in Miami, up against AA and DL at MIA plus Spirit, JetBlue, and Southwest up I-95 at FLL. I thought Silver might be able to make a few of the routes work, but predicted F9 would fail pretty badly.

    @Izz – not sure how the system works for abandoned HAV slots to be reassigned. I’m not sure JetBlue would be that interested in BOS-HAV. The core business here is VFF, and the most recent estimate I could find of the Cuban-American population in metro Boston is around 11,000; the same source puts NYC on around 145k. Given this, and Cuba’s limited tourist infrastructure, I suspect B6 would be content to just offer Bostonians connections through JFK, FLL, or MCO.

  6. well what happened to our neighbors who according to obama are responsible for the booming of Miami? it’s a atrocity hotels/airlines should not be allowed to pull out, we need just to show some fairness and a lot of ideology.

  7. Cuba is a 3rd world country. With $400 R/T flights to terrorist ridden EU, why would you go to Cuba?

  8. From one extreme to another. At least these are airlines most people don’t really care about (or even know of) anyway. Way too much capacity for limited interest until Cuba gets their infrastructure together to satisfy tourists that are used to “necessities” of ATMs, wifi, and street signs.

  9. Great! All the spoiled, snotty nosed, DYKWIA Americans are staying home. Somewhere Hemingway is celebrating. I had a great time and plan to return soon. It is an easy upgrade:)

    Exactly what is all this magical “tourist infrastructure” folks can’t seem to live without? I guess many are waiting until Cuba looks like Orlando south. At least Cuba has power 24/7 unlike Nepal.

  10. Ha! Are you sure it’s not just more evidence of the Trump Effect – Cubans just don’t want to travel to the US while The Tiny-Handed Orange One is in charge.

    Incidentally, in British English “trump” is slang for “fart”. Just sayin’.

  11. Cuba may be be third world, but they all have great Healthcare.

    Now with the chumpcare that we will get, many people that voted for chump will die lacking health insurance. This will be fun to watch.

    Cubans aren’t so dumb to vote against their best interests. Only Americans.

  12. “Two U.S. Airlines Are Cutting Flights To Cuba Altogether”

    Now who could have seen that coming? 😉

    “they all have great Healthcare”

    Anyone who believes that, I’ve got some wonderful swamp land in South Florida for sale. Most of the Cuban doctors, such as they are, have been sent to Venezuela in exchange for shipments of oil. There are one or two showplace (‘potemkin’) hospitals used for fake publicity that only top Party members get to use. Then there are hellhole places for the ordinary peons….. 🙁

  13. @Credit “Cubans aren’t so dumb to vote against their best interests”

    Typical idiotic comment….

    Cubans don’t get to actually vote. Their ballots only have two boxes to check:
    1) I choose the candidate nominated by the Communist Party
    2) I want to go to jail immediately

    Life is so wonderful in that “workers paradise” (sic) that hundreds of thousands have risked their lives to escape, over filling barely seaworthy decrepit boats and even home made rafts, many dying at sea in the attempt. Think about what it must be like there, when people feel like this: ‘I have a 50% chance of escape, I have a 50% chance of drowning or being eaten by a shark. I like those odds, let’s try it’ ;(

  14. @ Credit & Paul
    Are you aware that you come off as being very pathetic individuals, and not in a good way but more of a sad and piteous way? Do you ever have kind words for anyone or ever able to celebrate the success of others? Take a clue from Mr. Robert Hanson’s post, if you wish to be critical of an issue, and do it with intelligence and class.
    BTW Paul, in proper English, a trump is a blast from a brass musical instrument to celebrate success.
    Lee
    ATX

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