American Pulls Out Of A Cuban City Altogether

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.

From day one I suggested that airlines were being overzealous in terms of the number of routes they intended to operate to Cuba. There was an extensive bidding process for flights to/from Havana, so it seems like many airlines were focused on keeping Cuba out of the hands of their competitors, rather than approaching capacity rationally.

Since these routes were started, we’ve seen constant capacity cuts to Cuba. Some airlines have canceled flights to Cuba altogether, while others have reduced frequencies and downgraded planes.

We’ve seen capacity cuts in one form or another from American, JetBlue, Silver AirwaysFrontierSpirit, and Southwest.

If there’s one US airline that’s best positioned to serve Cuba it’s American, given their Miami hub. Miami is just a short distance from Cuba, not to mention they’ve cornered the Caribbean market for so long. So while I’m highly skeptical of the long term viability of Alaska’s flight from Los Angeles to Havana, I have no doubt American will continue to fly between Miami and Havana, at a minimum.

So while we’ve seen American reduce frequencies on flights to Cuba before, for the first time American is pulling out of a Cuban destination altogether. American will discontinue their daily 252-mile flight between Miami and Cienfuegos as of January 7, 2018. Presently American operates an Embraer 175 once daily in the market with the following schedule:

AA4573 Miami to Cienfuegos departing 3:55PM arriving 5:10PM
AA4574 Cienfuegos to Miami departing 6:00PM arriving 7:15PM

Earlier this year American downgraded the route from an A319 to an Embraer 175, and now they’re cutting it altogether.

After this change, American’s destinations in Cuba will include Camaguey, Havana, Holguin, Santa Clara, and Varadero.

It’s pretty telling when American can’t make a once a day, 250 mile flight to Cuba work.

I’ll be curious to see which Cuba route American cuts next.

Are you surprised to see American cut service to a Cuban destination altogether?

Comments

  1. “It’s pretty telling when American can’t make a once a day, 250 mile flight to Cuba work.”

    You mean, other than the fact that these Cuba flights are largely dependent on US residents traveling to Cuba (and not Cubans traveling to the US), and as a result, the demand largely doesn’t exist to have the flights to/from airports other than HAV?

    Frankly, I’m surprised that a lot of these non-HAV flights have lasted as long as they have.

  2. I’m with Mike above. That, and as everyone has reported, there’s barely enough infrastructure in Cuba to handle their current population let alone any sort of influx of tourism. So, while it’s sad that it’s a double-edged sword for Cuba with regard to airlines (need tourists to spend money for the economy to blossom, but need seed money to attract tourists in the first place), it’s not at all surprising. I’ve had about 20-25 friends go to Cuba in the past few months. All of them thought it was super fun to take pictures of old, colorful cars and check in on Facebook, but none of them – like Lucky – have any desire to return to Cuba soon or ever. This was a power grab for all the airlines involved and now it’s biting them in the rear. Oops.

  3. My wife and I went to Cienfuegos before the HAV flights started on the A319. The city was about as expected and the people were friendly, the demand definitely wasn’t there from the start though. We had the same sentiments as Ben, glad I went but not in a rush to go back.

  4. CUBA was just a trend for the hipsters. And now that’s so 11 months ago. Legitimately there are Cuban-Americans that have been reunited with their families but there are way too many routes to Cuba now with little to no demand.

  5. Lucky said:I had an… interesting time. I’m happy to have seen Havana, but don’t need to return anytime soon.
    Having travelled to many countries (close to 100), I find Cuba to be one of the more exceptionally worthwhile countries to visit. Then again, I speak Spanish fluently, well versed in Cuban and Latin American History as well as studied the Cuban History.
    If you speak Spanish well, it is one of the most emotionally rewarding travel experiences in my opinion.
    I am truly sad that the American tourism just dried up after the Trump announcements that saw many of the innovative private initiatives die out, such as world class restaurants along the Malecon and very good private lodgings with price to match. It also brought out some disagreeable selfish characteristics among the people who are involved in tourism in this very unselfish, openminded and sharing society.

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