While several U.S. airlines have cut flights to Cuba citing weak demand, American Airlines, JetBlue Airways and Delta Air Lines are investing in more service to Havana.
Monday, American filed an application with the U.S. Department of Transportation requesting seven weekly flights between Miami International Airport and Havana. Last week, JetBlue did the same, applying for seven slots: an additional Havana to Fort Lauderdale flight six times a week and an inaugural weekly flight from Boston to the Cuban capital on Saturdays. Delta Air Lines requested seven weekly flights from Miami to Havana.
If approved, American would start flying to Cuba on a 160-seat Boeing 737 on Oct. 5. JetBlue plans to use a 162-seat Airbus A320 aircraft for its flights beginning Nov. 1.
The openings for new routes were made available after Spirit Airlines, Silver Airways and Frontier Airlines announced they would completely pull out of Cuba by June 4.
With these adjustments, Havana is performing well against our expectations and we are seeing strength in our groups business. ... We hold an optimistic long-term view as visitor levels grow at a record pace.
Philip Stewart, JetBlue spokesman
From Miami, American currently offers daily flights to Holguín, Cienfuegos, Camagüey, Santa Clara, Varadero and Havana and Delta Air Lines offers one daily flight to Havana. JetBlue operates 13 times weekly service from Fort Lauderdale to Havana.
While flights to other parts of the island have been reduced in the past, Havana routes seems to be profitable — but there were some growing pains.
In February, JetBlue said it would move to smaller planes on several routes, including Havana, to adjust for demand to the island. In all, JetBlue is cutting capacity to Cuba by 300 seats a day beginning May 3.
“With these adjustments, Havana is performing well against our expectations and we are seeing strength in our group’s business,” said JetBlue spokesman Philip Stewart, in a statement. “We hold an optimistic long-term view as visitor levels grow at a record pace.”
Since the initial frenzy to add service to Cuba began last year, some airlines have cut some, if not all, of their flights to Cuba. The changes, experts said, were likely due to overly optimistic forecasts for demand.
American Airlines was the first to reduce its service to Cuba, announcing in November that it would cut flights from Miami International Airport to Holguín, Santa Clara and Varadero from two daily to one. In December, Silver Airways reduced the number of flights on six of its nine destinations to the island before announcing in March that it was cutting service to Cuba altogether on April 22. Last month, Frontier announced it would completely eliminate its Miami to Havana route on June 4.
Spirit is the latest airline to make a change, announcing earlier this month that it would reduce flights to once daily, from its daily two flights between Fort Lauderdale and Havana, from May 3 to 23, offer its usual twice-daily flights from May 24 to 31 and then end flights altogether beginning June 1.