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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Spirit, the fifth airline to cut back on Cuba, ends flights to Havana

Spirit, the fifth airline to cut back on Cuba, ends flights to Havana
BY CHABELI HERRERA
cherrera@miamiherald.com

Spirit Airlines' Cuba fever is cooling down — big time.

The ultra-low cost carrier is ending its Havana flights from Fort
Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in June. That makes it the
fifth U.S. airline to cut back flights to the island after an initial
rush of service that began last August.

Miramar-based Spirit started flying to Havana's José Martí International
Airport early this year, after being approved for twice-daily service to
the Cuban capital in 2016. But weak demand — and overblown expectations
— has taken a toll at Spirit and other airlines that overshot demand for
travel to Cuba.

Before cutting service completely on June 1, Spirit will operate an
adjusted schedule that will reduce its daily flights to one in the
morning from May 3 to 23. From May 24 to 31, the carrier will operate on
its twice-daily schedule before ending flights altogether.

Spirit spokesman Paul Berry said the airline "really wanted FLL-HAV to
work."

"But the costs of serving Havana continue to outweigh the demand for
service," Berry said in a statement. "Due to overcapacity and the
additional costs associated with flying to Cuba, we don't find it
sustainable to continue this service while maintaining our commitment to
pass along ultra-low fares to our customers."

Passengers already booked on an affected flight, such as the afternoon
flights being cut in May, will be re-booked to the morning flight, Berry
said. Those with flights beyond May 31 will get a full refund, he said.
All affected passengers will receive a $50 voucher for future Spirit
flights.

Spirit joins American Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Frontier Airlines and
Silver Airways in reducing service.

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. JetBlue announced it would move to smaller planes on
several routes, including from Fort Lauderdale, to Havana, Santa Clara,
Holguín and Camagüey effective May 3l, dialing back capacity across all
routes by 300 seats a day.

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. And last month, Frontier
announced it would completely eliminate its Miami to Havana route on June 4.

Seth Kaplan, managing partner at trade publication Airline Weekly, said
he can't recall another time when airlines piled so many flights into a
market "where there turned out to be so little demand."

"The problem here was that there was so little data to work with.
Usually when an airline considers new nonstop service in a market, it
can, for example, look at how many people are already flying between the
cities on a connecting basis and try to project how many more might fly
if a more convenient nonstop flight existed," Kaplan said. "In this
case, there was just no scheduled commercial service at all, not even
connecting service.

"They always knew it was a long-term play, and they wanted to grab the
scarce Havana rights while they could, but clearly they didn't expect it
to be this bad."

The question is now, who's left?

From Miami, American Airlines operates daily flights to Holguín,
Cienfuegos, Camagüey, Santa Clara, Varadero and Havana and Delta Air
Lines offers one daily flight to Havana.

From Fort Lauderdale, JetBlue offers daily and weekly flights to Santa
Clara, Camagüey, Holguín and Havana and Southwest Airlines still
operates daily flights to Varadero, Santa Clara and Havana.

Source: Spirit, the fifth airline to cut back on Cuba, ends flights to
Havana | Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/article144601199.html
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