Cuba

More U.S. carriers are cutting back on flights to Cuba

A Silver Airways aircraft flies over the company's Fort Lauderdale hangar.
A Silver Airways aircraft flies over the company's Fort Lauderdale hangar. Sun Sentinel

Silver Airways plans to trim its flight schedule to Cuba starting early next year, becoming the second U.S. airline to reduce the frequency of flights to the island, Travel Weekly reported.

Between January and February, the airline — which flies out of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) — plans to reduce the number of flights on six of its nine destinations to the island.

The frequency of flights from FLL to Camagüey will be reduced from five weekly trips to three; to Cayo Coco, from three weekly flights to two; to Holguín, to three per week instead of one daily flight; to Manzanillo, from three weekly flights to two; and to Varadero, Silver will trim its four weekly flights to three. Flights to Santiago will also be reduced in February from one daily flight to three per week, according to Routesonline.com.

“As with all of our network and all airlines, seasonal schedule adjustments are common to best match demand,” Silver Airways said in a statement. “We are pleased with bookings thus far particularly given that many major online travel agents have yet to begin selling U.S. carrier flights to Cuba.

“As codeshare connections and other distribution channels begin to open to Cuba, we will reassess individual route frequencies at that time,” the statement said.

Silver Airways began regular flights to the island in September. The airline does not offer flights to Havana.

The Silver Airways flights reduction follows American Airlines, which announced in November that it would cut nearly a quarter of its flights to Cuba early next year due to poor demand. American, the U.S. carrier with most flights to the island, had scheduled five daily flights to Havana and 56 weekly flights to other Cuban cities. But just over a month into operation, many of the flights were going half empty.

After 55 years, American Airlines begins scheduled commercial service between Miami and Cuban cities of Cienfuegos and Holguín.

Some speculation followed AA’s decision to cut back on its Cuba schedule just days before the presidential election. President-elect Donald Trump promised during his campaign to overturn President Obama’s policies of rapproachment toward the Communist-ruled island.

In February, Cuba and the U.S. reestablished commercial air service between the two countries for the first time in more than five decades. The agreement, which excluded charter flights already operating from the U.S. to the island, allowed up to 110 daily flights.

In August, JetBlue Flight 387 from Fort Lauderdale to Santa Clara became the first commercial flight from the U.S. to Cuba since 1961. That same day, eight U.S. airlines received authorization from the Department of Transportation (DOT) to fly between 10 U.S. cities and Havana.

With the new options, several airlines substantially reduced their ticket prices to Cuba, with JetBlue and Southwest offering rates under $60.

However, Americans still must abide by some restrictions. Going just as a tourist, for example, remains prohibited by the embargo, and passengers living in the U.S. who are not Cuban must be covered by a license under one of 12 categories established by the U.S. Department of Treasury.

On Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016, JetBlue became the first U.S. airline to initiate commercial flights with Cuba, kicking off with a flight from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport to Santa Clara, Cuba, in more than 50 years.

You can follow Abel Fernández on Twitter @abelfglez

  Comments