Weak Demand Prompts Two US Airlines to Cancel Cuba Service
MIAMI — On Monday, Silver Airways and Frontier Airlines announced that they plan to cancel their routes to Cuba, citing a weaker demand than expected.
“Difficult but necessary” was how Silver Airways referred to its decision to suspend all its Cuba services, effective on April 22. The regional carrier based in Fort Lauderdale had originally planned to serve nine Cuban cities outside Havana, which the US Department of Transportation (DOT) authorized for regular scheduled flights from the United States.
“This lack of demand coupled with overcapacity by the larger airlines has made the Cuban routes unprofitable for all carriers,” Silver said in statement. They’ve been using 34-seat Saab 340B aircraft on its Cuba routes, but some of its recent flights from Fort Lauderdale to Varadero have been carrying just two or three passengers, according to Cuban Customs reports.
Silver plans to continue monitoring Cuba routes and “will consider resuming service in the future if the commercial environment changes.”
Denver-based Frontier also announced the end of its Miami-Havana route, to be cancelled on June 4 due to “higher than anticipated costs and lower than expected demand”.
“Market conditions have failed to materialize there, and excess capacity has been allocated to the Florida-Cuba market” the airline said in a statement, stressing 80 percent of its “new routes have succeeded over the past few years, yet circumstances sometimes prevent us from achieving our objectives”.
Last June, both carriers, along with four other American airlines were granted permission to start regular scheduled fights to Cuba, leading to their first commercial flights in December. Frontier planned its daily flights to and from Havana relying on potential customers from Denver and Las Vegas, who could connect via Miami.
Even though there was great expectancy from US airlines for these new routes, part of the enthusiasm was based on the assumption that the travel opening that began under former President Barack Obama would continue. Now, President Donald Trump is reviewing all Obama’s executive orders on Cuba, leaving the future of the latter’s Cuba policy still up in the air.
Silver and Frontier were not the only ones affected by the current situation; American Airlines cut its daily flights to Cuba from 13 to 10 flights a day, and JetBlue decided to deploy smaller planes on its Cuba routes in mid-February.
Travel to Cuba remains restricted to those with one or more of a dozen specific reasons for going there, including educational and humanitarian missions, family reunions and export business.