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US airlines were thrilled when they learned that they’d be allowed to fly to Cuba and immediately launched dozens of routes between the former adversary. However, it’s become clear that travelers aren’t booking as many trips to the island as anticipated and airlines have been forced to scale back substantially in the less than two years since they’ve relaunched service. Alaska, Frontier, Silver Airways and Spirit have eliminated their Cuba routes altogether.
The exception is JetBlue, which was also the first airline to operate commercial service between the US and Cuba following the agreement. JetBlue announced this week that it’s expanding and diversifying its schedule to Havana with new service from Boston (BOS) and more flights from Fort Lauderdale (FLL). This is in addition to JetBlue’s existing nonstop service from New York (JFK) and Orlando (MCO), meaning that JetBlue will have more gateways to Cuba than any other US airline.
Although JetBlue began scheduling smaller aircraft in May 2017, the airline says that its Cuban markets are developing in line with its expectations contrary to some of its competitors. “We carried more than 390,000 customers on nearly 2,000 flights between the U.S. and Cuba in just our first year of commercial service,” a JetBlue spokesperson told TPG in an email. “JetBlue remains dedicated to fostering travel and cultural connections between the two countries in accordance with all legal requirements and believe we are poised for further growth as other airlines eliminate service to Cuba,” the spokesperson added.
Part of the reason demand has fallen is due to new travel and commerce regulations on Cuba imposed by the Trump administration last November. Additionally, many travelers are choosing to visit the island nation by cruise ship since the country doesn’t yet have the kind of infrastructure that many luxury-loving travelers demand.
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