Southwest just announced that it would be dropping two routes to Cuba come September 4, 2017. These two routes were to Varadero and Santa Clara and Southwest claimed that the decision to end these routes had nothing to do with Trump’s new policy changes with respect to travel to Cuba. Instead, Southwest claims that there’s just been a simple lack of demand for these routes, in large part due to the current restrictions in place for Cuban travel.
Steve Goldberg, senior vice president of Southwest ground operations, stated:
“Our decision to discontinue the other Cuba flights comes after an in-depth analysis of our performance over several months which confirmed that there is not a clear path to sustainability serving these markets, particularly with the continuing prohibition in U.S. law on tourism to Cuba for American citizens”
Currently, travel to Cuba by US citizens is limited to 12 specific categories. The 12 categories of authorized travel to Cuba are:
- family visits;
- official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations;
- journalistic activity;
- professional research and professional meetings;
- educational activities;
- religious activities;
- public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions;
- support for the Cuban people;
- humanitarian projects;
- activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes;
- exportation, importation, or transmission of information or informational materials;
- and certain authorized export transactions.
Many people have gone with journalistic activity to secure entry into Cuba and kept daily logs or written articles about their experienced to legitimize their visit. Still, for many people these categories were more of a “wink-wink-nudge-nudge” formality, which is probably why some airlines believed that tourist-centric locations like Varadero, known for its resorts and beaches, would still attract enough visitors.
But as it turns out that was not the case.
Southwest was definitely not alone in overestimating the demand for flights to Cuba. Other airlines have also struggled with flying to Cuba, especially to cities outside of Havana. For example, American Airlines cut flights from MIA to the cities of Holguín, Santa Clara and Varadero from two daily flights to just one. Other airlines, such as Frontier, Spirit, and Silver have dropped all of their flights to Cuba.
The demand for routes from South Florida to Havana remains relatively strong, however. Although Southwest is cutting its flights to other Cuban cities, Southwest applied with the DOT for a third daily flight between Fort Lauderdale and Havana. And American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and JetBlue, also recently applied for additional flights from Miami to Havana.
H/T: Orlando Sentinel