When commercial airline service resumed between the United States and Cuba last year, many carriers saw gold in this untapped market. But a year later, many carriers have discovered that Cuba is more fool’s gold than a lucrative new market. Both Sun Country and Alaska Airlines have announced they will abandon service to the Pearl of the Antilles.
Alaska Ends Cuba Service
Alaska Airlines will end service between Los Angeles and Havana on January 22, 2018. The SEA-based airline blames recent changes to U.S. Cuban policy for the route cancellation, specifically the elimination “people-to-people” educational travel. That mode of travel essentially enabled legal tourism to Cuba for Americans. The Trump Administration has now eliminated this program.
> Read More: Here We Go Again…New Cuba Travel Restrictions
Andrew Harrison, Chief Commercial Officer for Alaska Airlines, stated–
Travel is about making connections, and we were honored to have played a role in helping people make personal connections by traveling between the U.S. and Cuba. We continually evaluate every route we fly to ensure we have the right number of seats to match the number of people who want to go there.
Alaska will “redeploy aircraft used to serve Havana to markets with higher demand”, a nice way of saying they were not selling enough seats.
If you are booked on Alaska to Havana after January 22nd, the carrier is offering free refunds or accommodation on another carrier.
Sun Country Eliminates Planned Cuba Service
Meanwhile, Sun Country has relinquished its rights to fly from Minneapolis/St. Paul to Santa Clara and Matanzas, two secondary Cuban cities. Sun Country never actually served these cities, but had received regulatory permission to do so.
The MSP-based airline also blamed recent changes in regulation for its decision to abandon this planned service to Cuba.
Sun Country Airlines is no longer considering operating scheduled service from Minneapolis/St. Paul to Cuba due to continued regulatory and market uncertainties.
Demand for travel to Cuba was never at the levels airlines forecasted. Furthermore, the infrastructure in Cuba is sorely lacking and simply not conducive to an influx in visitors. The recent regulatory changes by the Trump Administration were just icing on the cake.
Look for U.S. airlines to continue to scale back or eliminate service to Cuba.
image courtesy of Alaska Airlines