Mystery: American Airlines Flying 787 On 235-Mile Flight To Cuba

Filed Under: American

I’m fairly certain this is American’s shortest scheduled Boeing 787 flight ever, and probably also the most unusual.

American will fly Boeing 787s to Havana

As noted by @xJonNYC, between May 6 and June 2, 2021, American Airlines plans to fly the Boeing 787-8 between Miami and Havana. The following frequency is scheduled to be operated by the plane:

AA2705 Miami to Havana departing 10:40AM arriving 11:55AM
AA2706 Havana to Miami departing 1:25PM arriving 2:40PM

The 235-mile flight is blocked at 75 minutes in each direction. This is only one of six daily flights in the schedule over these dates, with all other flights scheduled to be operated by Boeing 737-800s.


American will fly a 787 between Miami and Havana

American only recently started flying 787s to Miami

Prior to 2020, American Airlines didn’t fly any 787s to Miami. To be as efficient as possible, airlines only base certain planes at certain airports, since pilots are rated on specific aircraft. So historically American’s long haul flights out of Miami have been operated by 777s, 767s, and 757s.

However, with American retiring both 767s and 757s, the airline is now finally flying 787s out of Miami as well.

American has retired its 767s

American sure is getting creative with its 787 routes out of Miami (probably due to lack of demand elsewhere). In addition to flying 787s to destinations like Santiago, Chile, American is also scheduling 787s for flights to the following destinations, as noted by @xJonNYC:

  • Bogota, Colombia (BOG)
  • Cali, Colombia (CLO)
  • Guayaquil, Ecuador (GYE)
  • Lima, Peru (LIM)
  • Medellin, Colombia (MDE)
  • Panama City, Panama (PTY)
  • Port Au Prince, Haiti (PAP)
  • San Pedro Sula, Honduras (SAP)
  • San Salvador, Salvador (SAL)
  • Quito, Ecuador (UIO)

These are all flights that could easily be operated by 737s in terms of range, but where 787s are being used instead.


Some of American’s 787 routes out of Miami

Why would American fly 787s to Cuba?

Of these 787 routes, the Miami to Havana route is by far the most surprising, at least to me. Several years back we saw a boom for travel between the US and Cuba, given that Obama had lifted many travel restrictions, but then Trump put them back into place. So while airlines were initially very excited about being able to fly to Cuba, that excitement subsided pretty quickly.

So can anyone make sense of American scheduling a 787 on this very short route?

  • Is this about cargo? There are significant limits on import & export between the US & Cuba, so I wouldn’t have assumed that cargo demand would warrant this plane
  • Is this about pilot training, so that 787 pilots can rack up landings on the plane on a short route?
  • Is American planning on consolidating flights to Cuba, so is scheduling a 787 so that other frequencies can be canceled?
  • Is demand for travel between the two countries really so great, despite travel restrictions?

Not a bad business class seat for a 45 minute flight!

This is a head-scratcher for me, so I’m curious if anyone has any insights…

Bottom line

American has scheduled a Boeing 787 to fly daily between Miami and Havana for May. While airlines are deploying wide bodies in all kinds of unconventional markets, this is an especially unusual one, in my opinion.

Between the travel restrictions, the number of frequencies, and how short of a flight this is, I got nothing, and I’d love to hear what you guys think.

Anyone have any insights on why American would fly a 787 to Cuba?

Comments
  1. @Lucky what do you think of the ground staff at MIA? Do you think they have improved recently? I consistently believe they are still one the worst (especially gate agents and rebooking center) even in 2021 where service at other AA hubs are getting better. Curious to hear you thoughts, thanks!

  2. Air Tanzania files their 787 on local ronds as well. Once I flew Mwanza-Dar on it, because they put all their 4 flights for the day together at 1 time on the Dreamliner

  3. @ randm — Some interesting ones there, thanks for the heads up. Just updated the post to reflect those. As strange as they seem, I can kind of get it from a cargo perspective.

  4. Ben you miss the high demand by Cuban nationals and exiled Cubans. Since the devaluation and introduction of the one Cuban peso the economic situation worsened. Even with money people don’t find food in the markets, so people depend on deliveries from outside. There is a market for entrepreneurs flying out and buying food and electronics to sell on the black market.

  5. @ Brandon Nauman– This is not strange. In the past, AA used to fly that route with A300s and 767s. This is a busy route due to the large haitian community in Florida.

  6. The Cuban government is only allowing one flight per week during this pandemic. That’s why American is sending a bigger airplane with more people. Hello from Cuba

  7. We now know where some of the 1.9 trillion went. Certainly, not all finds its way into pockets of citizens. 45 million to the Kennedy Center, 500 million to Sudan, and now suitcases to Cuba.

  8. Since the pandemic and deleted routes we they have a surplus of aircrafts that may have a contract lease. So why pay for an aircrafts that are just sitting on the ground. This at least keeps the payments and up keep of the airplanes in check. The more and aircraft sit the more expensive it becomes

  9. On a different thought, 787 are ETOP aircraft, and after having an engine serviced need to fly 1 proving leg to ensure the work done was 100%‐ before getting 5 hours from land and then going Uh Oh! With MIA maint technicians working on the engines at the hangar, it makes sense to run a test flight 230 miles and back. If something isn’t right, Miami is an easy return.
    Now, as for PAP, having worked that flight on the ramp, there is never enough room on a 737 for all the baggage, it is usually at max weight per bag, and trying to heft 70 lb bag/box/car part from the cargo door to the back wall put a lot of my coworkers out on OJI. A containerized load means it only gets handled once in the bagroom, once at claim. And thanks to bag scanning, that passenger who didn’t show up at the flight, and their bag needs to be removed… instead of having to dump a whole bin to get to it,(it’sALWAYS the 1st bag loaded) you only need to see which can its in, shuffle it out, dig in 20 and pull it out and pop the ULD back on, and go.

  10. It’s almost certainly about cargo and people. The restrictions mean consolidation of passengers and, if you’ve ever seen the offload from a flight from the US to Cuba, there’s still a lot of stuff heading outbound.

  11. A big part of the reason for flying the 787 on such a short route could be to give a large number of pilots line check rides on the 787. The check rides may be required due to pilots transitioning to the 787 from the 757/767 retirements. The short route allows the check ride to be given in a short amount of time, instead of over a 2 or 3 day period that a longer route would entail.

  12. @Jackson – elections have consequences. Fck your feelings. Isn’t that what your crew says? Lol. Keep ranting about government tyranny and liberal cities that are 100x more interesting than the backwards dump you live in.

  13. I definitely agree with the rationale for a weekly flight at full capacity.
    The distance still feels awkward, though.

    Congrats on your blog, Ben!

  14. Could it be because they have their 787s based there anyway? One plane could easily do two (maybe three?) MIA-HAV roundtrips in the day and still be ready for the night trip to SCL. Just a thought…

  15. Not unusual for non US based carriers to fly wide bodies there. American carriers are the only ones with most service embargoed.

  16. Why American Airlines is flying wide body 787 to Cuba? The answer in Cuban is very easy. Porque le salen de los cojones. And if you ask any Cuban, they’ll agree.

  17. All the cubans going to Havana takes 120 kg, including Tv, and other electric devices, so on one hand is the fact that there’s only one flight per week, and in the other hand you are right is cargo the main cause. 300*120=36000kg of cargo, plus 24000 on passenger, plus maybe why not real cargo from Miami agencies, only a wide body aircraft is suitable for the task, I don’t know why they did it before, I am ramp agent and worked for american in cuba. This will be great for all the cubans that take care of they families in the island, Cheers!

  18. It is about time someone try to help my people in Cuba the regular people not (gov or high class military) ,all supply to live is faster by air cargo than ship the one taking 3 to six month to arrive and not count with thieves in Havana port ours families missing several packages because the delay. Thanks AA once again for this flying project.

  19. US citizens can still go to Cuba under helping cuban people category. There’s no real ban if you know where to book hotels (to hekpccuban people).

  20. I have family in Cuba and pre pandemic would fly four times a year there. I almost always brought three seventy pound bags fir a one week stay in order to supply family with goods that they cannot buy in Cuba. When flights opened up the last time to Havana, there was a three week backlog of bags left at MIA because they couldn’t accommodate all of the passenger’s bags. Many people fly there and back just to bring goods. There is pent up need since the last closing

  21. Of course that is a smart movement from AA. The problem is, Cuba only allows 1 flight at week, then if AA use 787 instead 737 more people can travel in one flight and more tickets can sells almost the double

  22. @ charles engelberg

    Nope, Guantanamo would have absolutely NOTHING to do with a commercial flight to Havana.

  23. Aa is stopping 145 operations out of Mia and going to 175s in the next month or ao. Maybe the 787s are to fill a gap here… Or otherwise related (source, aa regional 145 pilots YT channel)

  24. Nobody flies to cuba with one suitcase. Every single person on that flight will have 5 or 6 bags wrapped in shrink wrap along with flat screen TVs and car tires. They need all the cargo space they can get.

  25. @Jackson…wow…talk about a comment that adds no value to the discussion. If there was a contest you’d win hands down.
    I’m more interested in how/when ordinary citizens can travel to Cuba and thoughts on the overall embargo status.

  26. American has a schedule with 6 daily flights, and they usually are full. On Feb 6th Cuban govt reduced the frequency to 7 flights per week, and later they reduced it further to only 1 flight per week. If American would have a beluga airplane they would be using it right now in the MIA-HAV flight and we Cuban Americans would ve over booking it (no seating needed)

  27. For more than one reason at a time.
    1- One is baggage capacity, ease of loading and unloading baggage containers, which makes that job a lot easier for baggage handlers, more passengers in only one flight
    2- Baggage capacity: Have you seen how many checked bags are carried to Cuba. Cuban economy is a disaster, and families try to bulk as much as they can whenever traveling, and the B737-800 and B737-M capacity is always at full. 787 Dreamliner has much more carry on capacity and more checked bags capacity
    3- Pilots training and check ins, meaning more takeoff and landing circles, which amounts towards required circles to be fully certified in 787s
    4- Short and quick round trip: keeps the aircrafts almost always on MIA ground in case an unforeseen event happens, so, proximity to a secure landing airport is a most just in case. Flight time MIA-HAV or to any other Cuban airport from the moment the aircraft takes off to the moment it touches ground in Cuba is no more than 45 to 50 minutes, half of that is what it is only needed to return to base in case
    I might add more reasons later as increasing demand is expected after Cuban restrictions are lifted

  28. Tampa is next, we have the second strongest Cuban population in Florida. We have several flights a day to Havana. Mostly EMB 190, A320, 737-800 on American and Spirit.

  29. That is because of the high demand of cubans to visit Cuba, specially the ones who came to US in recent years…they love to go back to visit Cuba!! I have been here for almost 40 years and I have never gone back to leave my $ to that communist regime!

  30. It is interesting that American Airlines is flying the widebody Boeing 787 from Miami to Havana.

    Ludwig Dale Messer

  31. There is no secret here, most potential travelers live around Miami Airport. The demand is very high and so much of the tickets can easily sky rocket to 1000 usd for the short trip on high season. Although, premium demand is not there for the first class, Cubans do check a lot of luggage per person, and they do in fact pay for the upgrade at the ticket counter because it can be cheaper to do so( due to the short distance) , instead of paying baggage fees (first class luggage can weight up to 75 pounds) , compared to 50 pounds in economy (with a fee). So if you do the math, they can bring 150 pounds in two bags, instead of paying for three 50 pounds bag ( 30 usd for the first one, 40 for the second round and 150usd for the third bag) that is $210 usd just in bag fees, when they can pay a 75-120 usd upg. They know this.
    American 737 do not always have the capacity of holding the luggage demand, and if it is not the 737 max, it can be EASLY weight restricted up to ten or more passengers, having to pay for denied boarding etc.

  32. Go to Miami Airport at 7 am for the flight to Havana and you will see exactly why they are using the 787. The amount of luggage, bikes, tires, tv’s, and boxes that are being checked in is mind boggling. Enough already on the trade embargo.

  33. I AM A TRAVEL ADVISOR WITH TRAVEL WHILE U CAN AND HAVE BEEN OFFERING GOOD WILL TOURS TO CUBA FOR THE PAST 6 YEARS. THESE PEOPLE DESPERATELY NEED OUR HELP.
    I PLAN ON BEING ON ONE OF THESE FLIGHTS WITH MUCH NEEDED SUPPLIES. I SUPPORT LIFTING THE EMBARGO.

  34. Maybe they need the Havana to Miami capacity. Having been to Cuba from Cancun before it was easy to get a seat going there. But once in Havana very difficult to get a return flight anywhere. We went to the airport several days in a row before finally finding 2 seats. And we had to bribe someone in the restroom to get those seats!

  35. You will be lucky if they don’t take your stuff at the airport, it’s great if you can take the bare necessities but what about if they go confiscate that is still a problem there. What about the pandemic? There a millions of people infected and without the proper healthcare. I feel horrible for those with families there.

  36. It’s not that much of a mystery. It’s more of a mystery, as to why it took so long for this to happen. The simple reason is passengers luggage. I work at MIA for AA, and know HAV flight very well. We’d have two or free flights a day, and each flight will have 300 plus bags. With the addition of another 45+ gate checked bags. The plane simply cannot hold that much. Not when it’s HAV bags. All come wrapped, are huge, and are all 75lbs+. We where leaving behind almost two carts of bags per flight. Each cart contains roughly 45 bags per cart. So 90 bags aren’t making the flight. Guess what happens next? You have to attempt to load these left behind bags, on the next flight a few hours later. With the exact same circumstances. So then another 90 bags get left behind. This is one of the few flights, that have expected delays. Crews have to cube out both bellies of the aircraft, and then attempt to add whatever was left from the previous flight. Fun fact, gate checked bags have priority over normal checked bags also. Those 45 gate checked bags, that happen on every HAV flight must go, so this also can cause bags to be left behind. Its one of the many laughable flights, as to why the company chooses the smallest plane to shift so much passengers and luggage. One 787 in the mix solves all the problems. No bags will get left behind, it can hold more passengers, and now importantly, no delays.

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