Alaska Airlines discontinues flights to Havana, Cuba

Wednesday, 15 Nov, 2017

Alaska Airlines will discontinue its daily Los Angeles-Havana flight on 22 January, roughly one year after the carrier launched the route. American Airlines announced in November 2016 that it would reduce its number of flights, before Alaska had even started operating.

After starting slowly — the Los Angeles-Havana flights were barely half-full in January — the airline was selling about 85 percent of the seats on average by April.

CNBC reported on November 8, 2017 that Sun Country Airlines became the latest USA airline to abandon Cuba, relinquishing its right to fly from Minneapolis/St. Paul to the Cuban cities of Santa Clara and Matanzas "due to continued regulatory and market uncertainties".

The restrictions - along with lower-than-expected demand even before the new rules went into place - have prompted several US airlines to curtail or abandon their Cuba flights.

But this fall "we saw bookings drop off precipitously", he said.

"A severe hurricane season didn't help", Kirby added.

Turns out, travel to Cuba isn't the bomb after all.

About 80 percent of Alaska's flyers to Havana visited under a USA allowance for individual "people-to-people" educational travel.

Last week, the administration put into effect rules that ended so-called people-to-people travel, which had let individual Americans visit Cuba without going through a sponsoring group or university.

Although Alaska now operates the only nonstop flights to Havana from the West Coast, it has been a small player overall in the Cuba market, according to data from CAPA, an Australia-based aviation research firm.

Alaska Airlines is saying "Adios" to Cuba.

The end of Alaska's Cuba flights is "as permanent as anything is in the airline industry", Kirby said.

Early on, President Donald Trump said he would reverse the liberal travel to Cuba set forth by the Obama Administration.

"Travel is about making connections, and we were honored to have played a role in helping people make personal connections by traveling between the USA and Cuba", Andrew Harrison, chief commercial officer for Alaska Airlines, said today in a news release.

The acquisition of Virgin America has also meant that Alaska has "more opportunities than aircraft", providing good alternative uses for the jet now used on L.A. -Havana flights, Kirby said.