American Airlines Scales Back Flights to Cuba

Dec 1, 2016

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After 55 years without commercial flights between the US and Cuba, airlines were thrilled to get the chance to launch dozens of routes between the two former adversaries. The problem is, travelers haven’t been as excited about the new routes.

While airlines are famously hush-hush about their operational performance, the slew of cheap fares to Cuba show that airlines have been struggling to fill seats. Now, we have much more solid proof that US-Cuba flights aren’t working out the way airlines expected: American is cutting three daily flights to Cuba — one each to three Cuban cities. It addition, AA is downsizing the plane used on two of the routes.

On February, American Airlines is cutting one flight and downsizing the other.
On February 16, American Airlines is cutting one flight to Holguin and downsizing the other.

As of February 16, American Airlines is cutting a daily flight between Miami and Holguín (HOG), Santa Clara (SNU) and Varadero (VRA). On the same day, AA is reducing the surviving HOG flight from a 160-seat 737-800 to a 128-seat Airbus A319. Then, effective March 5, AA is making the same downgrade to the VRA flight. The combination of the cuts means a 60% reduction in seats between MIA and HOG and VRA, while MIA-SNU is “just” cut by half:

Flights from Miami to Original seating capacity Reduced seating capacity Reduction
Holguín (HOG) 320 128 60%
Santa Clara (SNU) 320 160 50%
Varadero (VRA) 320 128 60%

And this isn’t just a seasonal cut; these changes are loaded all the way through the end of schedule (October 25, 2017). Since this was an uncontested Cuban route, American Airlines can add more capacity to these routes at any time. So, it’ll be interesting to see if this ends up being just a temporary cut.

Bottom Line

It seems American Airlines was far too optimistic about how quickly travel from the US-Cuba would take off. It’ll be interesting to see if the carrier makes additional cuts to Cuba flights and if other airlines will be making similar cuts.

One thing is for sure: If you’d like to visit Cuba, you can take advantage of the current excess capacity to find cheap flights. Once airlines match capacity to actual demand, fares will surely become more expensive.

Featured image courtesy of American Airlines.

H/T: One Mile At A Time

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