Last year Cuba was more or less opened up to American tourism, and as a result, we saw US airlines add an unsustainable amount of capacity between the US and Cuba. For a moment traveling to Cuba was the new hot thing to do, though as Americans began to visit, it became apparent that the country didn’t really have the infrastructure to support the huge immediate influx of tourism.
Given the competitive nature of starting flights to Cuba (there were a limited number of available frequencies, so airlines had to petition the DOT to get slots), airlines went all-in and requested way more slots than they could profitably operate. After all, it wasn’t just about adding capacity to Cuba, but about keeping Cuba capacity from their competitors.
Airline executives were constantly quoted as saying that they weren’t making money in Cuba yet, but that it was an investment in the future.
However, airline after airline cut frequencies to Cuba. We’ve already seen capacity cuts or cancelations altogether from American, JetBlue, Silver Airways, Frontier, Spirit, Southwest, and Alaska. Furthermore, Delta has just announced that they’re reducing frequencies between New York and Havana to once weekly as of February 2018.
Most of these reductions and cancelations even happened before the Trump administration added further restrictions to traveling to Cuba.
So with airlines having given up some slots to Cuba, the DOT is tasked with reallocating them to other airlines. You’d think at some point airlines would say “nah, you can keep the Cuba slots,” but that’s not the case.
It has now been revealed which airlines have applied to take over the slots that Frontier and Spirit have given up to Havana. Specifically, the following airlines want to add the following flights to Cuba (which are in addition to their existing capacity):
- American wants to add 16x weekly flights between Miami and Havana
- JetBlue wants to add 6x weekly flights between Fort Lauderdale and Havana, 1x weekly flight between Boston and Havana, 7x weekly flights between Tampa and Havana, 7x weekly flights between New York and Havana, 7x weekly flights between Newark and Havana
- Delta wants to add 7x weekly flights between Miami and Havana
- Southwest wants to add 7x weekly flights between Fort Lauderdale and Havana
- United wants to add 6x weekly flights between Houston and Havana
As I’ve said from the very beginning, the one market that has the potential to work long term is Florida (Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and Tampa) to Havana, given the huge Cuban populations there. So who knows, maybe even with the added restrictions some of those flights make sense.
However, I can’t help but laugh at JetBlue’s requests. It goes without saying that they won’t be granted authority to operate all the flights. Typically airlines request way more than they actually want, recognizing they won’t be allocated all of those slots. However, I can’t help but laugh at what they’re requesting here, and I’d sure be amused if they were granted 14x weekly frequencies between NYC and Havana.
So we’ll see how the DOT rules on this soon, and whether airlines follow through on adding this service, in light of the current situation.
(Tip of the hat to LAXintl)