JetBlue pushes (again) to create a daily flight from Boston to Cuba
By Adam Vaccaro GLOBE STAFF OCTOBER 03, 2016
JetBlue Airways is making another attempt for permission to fly between
Boston and Cuba, petitioning the US government to strip a rival airline
of a new route between Los Angeles and Havana and replace it with a
flight from Logan Airport.
JetBlue is asking the US Department of Transportation to reject a
request by Alaska Airlines for more time to get its newly awarded flight
between Los Angeles and Havana up and flying. Alaska Airlines last week
asked the department to delay launching the route until early January,
and JetBlue promptly seized on the request, saying the US should instead
replace the flight with one between Boston and Havana.
And even if the delay is granted, JetBlue said, the government should
designate its proposed route from Boston as the "backup" in case Alaska
Airlines ultimately decides not to operate the flight.
JetBlue, which counts Boston as one of its top markets, has sought to
operate the Boston-to-Cuba flight since the United States and Cuba
agreed in February to resume air service between the Cold War rivals.
US carriers can send a total of 20 daily flights to Havana. JetBlue was
awarded four of those — one from New York and three from Florida
airports. But its request for routes from Tampa, Newark, and Boston were
not granted. The Havana routes have not yet started, but in late August,
JetBlue began operating flights to another Cuban airport in the central
city of Santa Clara.
JetBlue declined to comment about the filings on Monday. But the airline
seemingly views Boston as an important market for flights to Cuba. In an
earlier filing, the airline argued that Boston "is one of the top
markets in the United States, with significant connections to Cuba that
will drive demand."
After the government announced the 20 daily routes, JetBlue requested
that Boston be given at least a weekly Saturday flight to Havana.
The trips from New York represent the closest nonstop option for
Bostonians to get to Cuba. Alaska's flight from Los Angeles, meanwhile,
would represent the only one from the West Coast to Havana.
Travelers are only allowed to visit Cuba for nonvacation reasons, such
as family, business, educational, religious, journalistic, or
Alaska Airlines cited "commercial and operational challenges" in asking
to delay the start of service until Jan. 5, which is 37 days after the
Nov. 29 date that had been a government precondition when it awarded the
Because tourist trips to Cuba are still not permitted, the airline said
in its filing that launching the flights shortly after Thanksgiving
would be a challenge because "US consumers' travel to the Caribbean
region during the holiday season is predominantly for purposes of vacation."
In its response, JetBlue said those same problems are true for every
"If Alaska is concerned that the ban on tourism-related travel will make
its route not viable, it should turn its frequency over to the
department for reallocation to carriers like JetBlue that are prepared
to provide service to authorized customers," JetBlue said.
The Massachusetts Port Authority, which runs Logan Airport, has also
lobbied the federal government to consider a weekly flight from Boston.
In comments filed with the government in August, Massport chief
executive Thomas Glynn said Boston's Cuban-American population numbers
15,000. He also argued that the region is well-suited for trips to Cuba
that are allowed under the approved travel purposes because of the
number of health care, biotech, and higher education organizations in
and around Boston.
"These institutions have already generated demand for Cuba travel,
vastly supplementing Boston's Cuban-American population," Glynn wrote.
Glynn's appeal did not ultimately affect the final routes selected. In a
statement Monday, spokeswoman Jennifer Mehigan said Massport is "hopeful
that as the flight restrictions are loosened, Boston will be in the mix."
She declined to specifically address JetBlue's bid to take over the
Alaska Airlines route.
"The competition for direct Havana service has been intense and JetBlue
is going to make their business decisions based on what is best for
them. We applaud their belief in a Boston route," she said.
Adam Vaccaro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on
Twitter at @adamtvaccaro.
Source: JetBlue pushes US to create daily Logan flight to Cuba - The
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