Delta Is Ending Flights Between New York & Havana

US airlines began offering scheduled service to Cuba in the second half of 2016. 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 a few months after it became possible for Americans to visit. 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 AmericanJetBlueSilver AirwaysFrontierSpirit, and Southwest.

The Cuba situation has only gotten worse since new restrictions were placed on travel to Cuba in the second half of last year, about a year after Cuba initially “opened up” to Americans.

It looks like we’re now seeing the latest route victim. One of only two airlines to fly nonstop between New York JFK and Havana is Delta, as they operate a once weekly flight. It looks like Delta will operate their last once weekly flight between New York JFK and Havana on September 1, 2018. The route is operated on Saturdays using an Airbus A319 with the following schedule:

DL448 New York to Havana departing 8:15AM arriving 12:10PM
DL620 Havana to New York departing 1:10PM arriving 4:09PM

Amazingly JetBlue continues to offer daily flights between New York and Havana, and United continues to operate daily flights between Newark and Havana. Delta continues to operate flights to Havana out of Atlanta and Miami. Atlanta makes sense as it’s Delta’s biggest hub, and Miami makes sense given how big the Cuban population is there (though they can’t really compete with American’s Cuba route network out of Miami).

The reason we haven’t seen more drastic capacity cuts from airlines to/from Cuba is because of the initial bidding process required to get these routes. Airlines won bids to operate routes based on promises to operate certain types of aircraft and certain frequencies, and if they reduced those they’d have to get DOT approval, and could potentially lose the right to operate the route altogether. So while I’m sure some airlines would love to reduce frequencies and downgrade aircraft types to Cuba, that’s not happening all that much.

I’m still really surprised that we haven’t seen bigger capacity cuts to Cuba…

Comments

  1. I think everyone’s excitement has worn off and those who wanted to go have and no one feels the need to return. I’ve wanted to go but can’t find a legitimate way to go based on the guidelines. Friends have gone and been able to fall under one of the categories. My profession violates Global Entry rules so I can’t use it as a reason.

  2. I’ll just chalk it up as an honest mistake this time – UA still flies EWR-HAV

    Some of the routes might have had some breathing room if not for the change in regime in DC and a complete 180 on Cuba policy.0

  3. there is no reason to go, there is nothing to do or to see there. ask anyone who has gone if they want to go back and notice the hesitation.

  4. You funny Americans. My two local small market airports (YHZ and YQM) see several daily flights across four Airlines to Cuba from Oct-May. There was even an A310 serving YHZ last winter. Cuba is the most popular sun vacation destination for East Coast Canadians. You’ll outsource your entire manufacturing capacity to the PRC, but Cuba is still a no-no.

  5. Everyone has a different point of view, but I can’t believe the “meh” opinions of Cuba. Admittedly, I went on a carefully curated tour of the country and had a fantastic experience, and would go back.

  6. Alaska Airlines dropped daily flight LAX-HAV in January after one year of light traffic.

  7. We travelled independently to Cuba (not an organized tour) and had a great time. I can understand some of the comments because Havana is incredibly dirty and run down. But the people are super fun and friendly. I find Cuban – American history to be very interesting, so I thoroughly enjoyed it. The comments saying “nothing to see” are from people you would never invite to a party.

    If you do go, leave Havana. Also, talk to locals. They are very open, and not in a “I’m looking to scam you” touristy way (at least outside of central Havana).

    I would love to go back, to the East part of the island.

  8. I think the truth is that sustaining routes outside of the Florida-Cuba, market where there is plenty of local travelers, is extremely hard for airlines and only works with heavily dominated hubs such as ATL for Delta or MIA for AA and really a lack of competition, the withdrawal for Delta is most likely to bulstur the overall Caribbean-NYC market with more profitable and popular markets, and once the current environment for politics changes you never know of it could be restated by Delta.

  9. I live in Nova Scotia part of the year and most of my neighbors take annual holidays at all-inclusive resorts in Cuba. There are scheduled flights from Halifax, as well as charters to Havana, and to Veradero and Holquin as well.

    Canadians have been dreading an influx of Americans into Cuba, fearing a Starbucks and Burger King on every corner, so this reduction in the number of flights from the States will be welcome news to northern snowbirds!

  10. I don’t think the airlines were being over-zealous if they’re hoping to mirror how the Canadian-Cuban market has developed over the years (hint : it involves flying far more capacity into beach resorts and secondary markets such as Santa Clara (SNU), Cayo Coyo (CCC), Varadero (VRA) etc etc.)

    Flooding the market with MIA/FLL/TPA-HAV is simply converting the previous charter VFR market into scheduled, but it doesn’t do much in terms of actually increasing the desirability.

    Case in point – Cayo Coyo CCC. Including seasonal service, Sunwing flies from 16 Canadian airports to CCC, while AirCanada flies both rouge and mainline. But according to wiki, none offered by any US-based carrier …. not even AA to MIA.

  11. I strongly suspect this is Trump’s fault. I haven’t been to Cuba, and I’d really, really like to go. I didn’t get a chance under Obama. I’m not interested in a cruise or a tour, and so its just not feasible for an independent traveler like me to go to Cuba. I’ll just wait until 2020, and travel whatever route still exists then.

  12. It’s sad that the restrictions came so soon after Cuba became “open” to Americans. Cuba was never at the top of my list but who knows. I would hate to miss the opportunity if it was to become “closed” again in the near future.

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