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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Southwest drops two routes to Cuba; Havana flights to stay

Southwest drops two routes to Cuba; Havana flights to stay
Ben Mutzabaugh , USA TODAY Published 8:46 a.m. ET June 29, 2017

Southwest Airlines will ax two of its three routes to Cuba, becoming the
latest U.S. carrier to trim flights to the nation amid disappointing
demand.

Southwest said flights to Varadero and Santa Clara will be discontinued
so that the airline can "concentrate its future service to Cuba in
Havana." Southwest will keep its existing service to Havana from both
Fort Lauderdale and Tampa.

Varadero and Santa Clara flights will end Sept. 4, with Southwest
pointing to lingering travel restrictions that affect Americans
traveling to Cuba.

"Our decision to discontinue the other Cuba flights comes after an
in-depth analysis of our performance over several months which confirmed
that there is not a clear path to sustainability serving these markets,
particularly with the continuing prohibition in U.S. law on tourism to
Cuba for American citizens," Steve Goldberg, Southwest's senior vice
president of ground operations, said in a statement.

With that, Southwest joins a growing list of U.S. airlines that have cut
back Cuba service since regular passenger flights to the country resumed
in November for the first time more than 50 years.

American and JetBlue each have reduced their capacity to Cuba. Neither
dropped any routes, but American is now flying fewer flights while
JetBlue has mixed in smaller planes to its schedules.

Two smaller airlines have pulled out of Cuba altogether. Frontier
dropped its Miami-Havana route in June, ending its only route to Cuba.
And small carrier Silver Airways, which once had plans for nine Cuba
routes, stopped flying to the country this spring.

When Cuba opened up to U.S. airlines last year, routes and capacity to
the island were capped and carriers had to apply for the rights to serve
the Cuba's international airports. Nearly all of the big U.S. airlines
rushed in with requests to fly to the island – especially on routes to
Havana.

Against that enthusiasm, however, some industry executives openly
wondered whether demand would live up to the hype.

Without regular airline service to the island in five decades, there was
little data available to carriers in trying to assess potential demand
for flights to new destinations. And unlike other foreign markets, Cuba
remains a unique and highly regulated place for U.S. airlines to do
business.

Indeed, some of the new routes haven't panned out as expected.

As for Southwest, it has asked the U.S. Department of Transportation for
the rights to add more flights to Havana on its existing route from Fort
Lauderdale. But it will face competition from rivals who also are
seeking to pick up Havana rights dropped by other airlines.

Southwest says it will offer refunds to customers with reservations for
flights to Varadero and Santa Clara beyond Sept. 4.

Source: Southwest drops two routes to Cuba; Havana flights to stay -
https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/flights/todayinthesky/2017/06/29/southwest-drops-two-routes-cuba-havana-flights-stay/438218001/
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