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JetBlue becomes third airline to scale back its trips to Cuba

JetBlue Flight 387 taxis on to the runway under a water canon salute as it departs for Cuba. On Wednesday, August 31, 2016, JetBlue became the first U.S. airline to initiate commercial flights with Cuba in more than 50 years, kicking off with a flight from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport to Santa Clara.
JetBlue Flight 387 taxis on to the runway under a water canon salute as it departs for Cuba. On Wednesday, August 31, 2016, JetBlue became the first U.S. airline to initiate commercial flights with Cuba in more than 50 years, kicking off with a flight from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport to Santa Clara. cjuste@miamiherald.com

JetBlue is set to become the third airline to cut back on its trips to Cuba.

Effective May 3, the airline will move to smaller planes on several routes, including from Fort Lauderdale, to Havana, Santa Clara, Holguin and Camaguey, according to JetBlue spokesman Philip Stewart.

On flights between Fort Lauderdale and Santa Clara, Camaguey, and Holguin, the New York-based carrier will move to using 100-seat Embraer 190 aircraft, instead of its 150-seat Airbus A320s.

On flights between Havana and Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, JetBlue will lose 50 seats by switching to Airbus A320s from the 200-seat Airbus A321.

In total, JetBlue is dialing back capacity by 300 seats a day.

“We are continuing to operate our schedule of nearly 50 weekly round trip Cuban flights but have made adjustments to our fleet utilization,” Stewart said in a statement. “It’s common practice to adjust schedules and fleet type based on customer preferences, especially on routes that are new to the network.”

In August, JetBlue inaugurated the first commercial flights to the island since 1961 with a Fort Lauderdale-Santa Clara flight. But after the initial fanfare of first flights, airlines started to realize that demand was not keeping up with their new Cuba routes.

American Airlines was the first to reduce its service to Cuba, announcing in November that it would cut flights from Miami to Holguin, 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. From Fort Lauderdale, flights to Camaguey were trimmed from five weekly trips to three, Cayo Coco went from three weekly flights to two, Holguin was cut from three flights to one a week, Manzanillo is down three weekly flights to two, Varadero will get three weekly flights, from four, and Santiago will retain just one weekly flight from its original three.

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