Khalid Ayoubi, Aeronautics Online Writer
Alaska Airlines began a daily service route between Los Angeles and Havana, Cuba on January 5, 2017, but due to the latest revelations, the airline will end the route service on January 22, 2018, only just over a year since Alaska began the service.
During Barack Obama’s presidency, the US opened “people-to-people” travel, which allowed individuals to travel to Cuba on approved trips, so long as they are travelling to learn about the culture and life in Cuba. President Trump announced a new policy change back in June that would disallow people-to-people travel.
Alaska Airlines has stated “About 80% of Alaska flyers to Havana visited under a US allowance for individual ‘people-to-people’ educational travel,” however, “Changes to US policy last week eliminated that allowance. Given changes in Cuba travel policies, the airline will redeploy these resources to other markets the airline serves where demand continues to be strong.”
Alaska is one of few airlines to drop service to Cuba. Initially, nine airlines launched flights to Cuba in the second half of 2016 into the beginning of 2017. With former President Obama easing the tension between Cuba and the US, new agreements over air travel were made to restart scheduled commercial flights to Cuba for the first time in 50 years. When these services launched, demand was high. “Initially we saw a lot of demand. More than three-quarters full,” Kirby said. Those flights reached 85% capacity during the following month.
Despite the demand in the beginning months of these flights, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma haven’t helped flights to Cuba either. With the current situations with political changes and environmental changes, the flight has become less popular recently, leading to its downfall in passengers per flight.
However, there is still hope that in the 2020s, these flights could see more demand and new windows of opportunity for airlines to start flights again, but as of now, demand is low and government policies are leading to the cut in demand for these flights. As of the time of this article, United Airlines, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Delta Airlines, and Jetblue Airways currently still maintain flights to Cuba but no word whether they will leave the Havana flights or keep them going.
All media from Aeronautics editor Max Trimm.