Spirit Airlines Is Cutting Flights To Cuba As Of June 1, 2017

In the second half of last year we saw the major US airlines begin selling tickets for flights to Cuba. It’s no surprise that so many US 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 flights to Cuba profitable

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 US and Cuba.

While there was a lot of enthusiasm at first, over the past few 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 canceled flights to Cuba

As I expected from the very beginning, we’ve already seen several 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.

Just last month it was announced that the first two airlines will be pulling out of Cuba altogether:

  • 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

havana-2

Spirit is the next airline to pull out of Cuba

This doesn’t come as any surprise, but Spirit Airlines has announced today that they’re cutting flights to Cuba as of May 31, 2017. The airline presently offers twice daily flights between Fort Lauderdale and Havana, but like other airlines, they can’t seem to make it work.

Spirit-Airlines

Per the SunSentinel, here’s what the airline said about cutting flights to Cuba:

“We really wanted [Fort Lauderdale-to-Havana] to work, especially being South Florida’s hometown airline… and the ultra-low cost leader to the Caribbean, but the costs of serving Havana continue to outweigh the demand for service,” said Bob Fornaro, Spirit’s president and CEO, in a statement. “Due to overcapacity and the additional costs associated with flying to Cuba, we don’t find it sustainable to continue this service while maintaining our commitment to pass along ultra-low fares to our customers.”

Spirit is going to operate a more limited schedule to Cuba before pulling out altogether in June:

  • From May 3-23, 2017, Spirit will operate once daily flights between Fort Lauderdale and Havana, rather than twice daily flights
  • From May 24-31, 2017, Spirit will operate their twice daily flights

For the period where Spirit is offering a limited schedule, they’ll proactively rebook passengers from the afternoon flight onto the morning flight.

For travel starting June 1, Spirit is saying that they’ll refund passengers. Really you’d think they should rebook passengers on other airlines, though they’re an ultra low cost carrier and don’t really place nice with other airlines, so I guess that’s not happening, unfortunately. That’s not good news for those who planned trips on Spirit to Cuba this summer. On the plus side, tickets seem to be pretty cheap across the board (which also explains why this flight was canceled).

As I said last time, the cuts will continue… we’ll see which airline is next.

Comments

  1. So is another airline going to try to take the HAV slots that Frontier/Spirit gave up? If memory serves, the demand for the slots exceeded the supply. United had some city pairs it wanted to try, from IAD, for example?

  2. Very tricky for Spirit to make it work. Same reason budget airlines don’t really fly to places that need Visa in Europe. The added cost of the Visa’s for budget airline passengers really puts them off buying the ticket and the core market wants bargain fares to cheap destinations.

  3. Thank you Bobbie Farnaro. If I want to make more money with this stock, this is the first stupid route to cut.

  4. The airlines all jumped to get there,
    as predicted they are dropping like flies.
    “….when she got there, the cupboard was bare.”

  5. Is it at all likely you’ll be able to use Mileageplus to Cuba at some point this year? I really can’t see why United are happy to sell the flights for cash but not miles.

  6. Look it’s all about the A319 vs the A321NEO and what Pratt wants to do with the next step in Middletown. CTPOWER YO!

  7. I am devastated. I had been flying Spirit exclusively and used all my award miles to book us on the trip of a lifetime in Cuba this June. Hotels and guiding all prepaid. Spirit has canceled our itinerary, and at the same time the miles were refunded they immediately expired. So now we have nothing. Spirit has refused all our requests at rebooting and we can’t even use the miles.

  8. I’m shocked, shocked I tell you….. 😉

    When someone like myself, who knows zilch about the airline business, can immediately tell that requesting all of these flights was “plane crazy”, I’ve got to wonder what those airline execs were smoking.

  9. Everyone JUMPED to get into the Cuban market…. but, all the suits at the airlines forgot one thing. Everyday people can NOT fly to Cuba still. They should be fired for their dumbass decision by the stockholders of the airlines involved.

  10. What the business experts on here are forgetting is that their goal is not just to get business, but to stop their competitors getting business. A great example is my local town which has two full-sized branches of the same supermarket right next to each other – they keep them both open however as if they closed one, a competitor would move into it.

    Whether they’ve been successful enough in that regard to have made the overcapacity worthwhile I don’t know.

  11. Just flew the Alaska non stop from LAX to Havana Thursday, April 6 and returned Monday, April 10 and the flight was completely full both directions. Glad I got to visit. Yes it’seems different from other Caribbean locations, but I enjoyed it enough to want to go back and see more of the country. I hope they continue to offer service from LAX, but I would consider a connection in Florida.

Leave a Reply

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