American Airlines is reducing its direct flights to Haiti’s capital.
As of Nov. 3, passengers traveling on American will no longer be able to fly direct to Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince out of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport or New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, the U.S.-based carrier announced Tuesday.
The decision will cut the number of American Airlines flights to Haiti each day from six to four — all departing from Miami International Airport, and including a daily flight to Cap-Haitien, Haiti’s second largest city. The cuts are part of a series of reductions including the end of service into Scotland’s Glasgow Airport and Mexico’s Puebla International Airport.
“It just makes for much more viable economics,” said Peter Vittori, American’s managing director of sales for Florida, the Caribbean and Latin America.
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Vittori said MIA, which serves as a hub for American’s Latin America and Caribbean operations, provides 62 connections for fliers coming from Haiti. However, the carrier could not “count on any connections” at FLL-Hollywood or JFK where passengers are less likely to take another leg of a flight.
“In terms of volumes of passengers, that’s been fairly strong,” Vittori said of the two airports. “It’s what we get from those passengers that has not been strong.”
The reductions, Vitorri said, will not affect the airlines’ staff in Haiti.
The Haitian diaspora in South Florida has come to rely on FLL-Hollywood for its ability to get American Airlines travelers to Haiti on a 6 a.m. flight, before Port-au-Prince’s traffic becomes too congested, back again in late afternoon to Florida.
And in the New York-Newark area, home to a large Haitian community, JFK’s direct flight has allowed passengers to avoid long layovers in Miami. JetBlue Airlines still operates a direct flight to Port-au-Prince out of JFK and also out of Fort Lauderdale.
“It’s a big loss for us,” said Guy Francois, minister of Haitians Living Abroad, the Haitian government ministry dedicated to the diaspora. “But it’s an opportunity for other airlines to come aboard and provide direct service to Haiti.”
Vittori said the decision has been in the works for a while, and the airline has “gone back and forth.”
“But it’s very difficult to argue with the economic numbers,” he said, adding that there “is a lot of sentiment on JFK. That’s how we started flying to Haiti 47 years ago.”
The Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood route began in 2014, the same year American Airlines launched its direct service from Miami to Cap-Haitien.