PHOTO: JetBlue wants to increase service to Cuba. (photo via Flickr/Tomas Del Coro)
Barely a month after JetBlue and American Airlines scaled back on the number of seats and flights to Cuba, while Frontier, Spirit and Silver completely cut service to the island nation—all reactions to a gross overestimation of demand for travel—the New York-based airline now wants to increase service to Havana.
JetBlue has formally applied to the U.S. Department of Transportation for seven of the 21 slots to Cuba that will become available when Frontier, Spirit and Silver abandon service later this spring
"In light of Spirit and Frontier terminating service to Havana, Cuba, on May 31, 2017, and June 4, 2017, respectively, JetBlue hereby applies for seven weekly frequencies in order to provide additional non-stop service between Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Havana, Cuba, and to inaugurate the first ever non-stop service between Boston, Massachusetts and Havana, Cuba.,” the airline said in its application to the DOT.
“JetBlue proposes to begin the additional services on November 1, 2017, in order to capitalize on the success of JetBlue’s initial entry into Cuba, which has provided customers in both countries with access to JetBlue’s low airfares and award-winning service.”
JetBlue currently provides daily non-stop service from New York to Havana, as well as from Orlando to Havana, and 13 times weekly service from Fort Lauderdale to Havana. The Long Island-based carrier has requested six weekly frequencies in order to increase its service levels on that route, as well as beginning the first-ever non-stop service between Boston and Havana with weekly Saturday service.
Still, it’s a curious move given the current climate for demand to the island.
Which begs the question, “Do they know something about what the Trump Administration is planning with respect to how its forthcoming policy review may be implemented?”
Those are the words of John Kavulich, President of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, Inc.
Kavulich obviously has a vested interest in how the trend will swing when it comes to Cuban travel, and he noted that the three largest United States cruise lines have substantially increased the number of itineraries that include island stops for 2017 and 2018—at capacity transporting more than 185,000 passengers on more than 100 sailings.
The cruise lines did not require additional authorizations to do so.
So, what’s next for JetBlue?
“Insightful will be the public comments, including from its competitors, Members of the United States Congress, and Governors relating to the filing by JetBlue Airways,” Kavulich said via email. “And how the DOT responds.”
American and Delta have joined JetBlue in applying for the right to increase service to Havana.
On Monday, American became the third carrier in four days to ask the Department of Transportation to award it some of the 21 weekly U.S.-Havana frequencies that Spirit and Frontier will surrender in the late spring. The move followed the submission of a similar application by Delta last Friday.
Spirit plans to drop its twice-daily Fort Lauderdale-Havana flights on May 31, while Frontier will cease its daily Miami-Havana service on June 4. The end of those services will open new Havana availabilities under the 2016 U.S-Cuba aviation agreement, which allows for a maximum of 20 flights daily from the U.S. to Havana.
American requested permission to operate a fifth daily Miami-Havana flight beginning no later than Oct. 5 while Delta hopes to begin flying a second daily Miami-Havana operation no later than Dec. 15.
Both applications came on the heels of an April 20 application by JetBlue to increase from 13 to 19 its total flights per week from Fort Lauderdale to Havana. JetBlue has also asked for approval to begin a weekly Boston-Havana service.
Efforts by American, Delta and JetBlue to obtain more Havana frequencies go against the trend that materialized in the six months after commercial service between the U.S. and Cuba resumed late last year.
Spirit, Frontier and the Florida regional carrier Silver have all pulled out of Cuba, citing overcapacity, high operating costs and lack of demand. American and JetBlue have downsized aircraft on some Cuba flights.
Delta painted a happier picture on Miami-Havana routes in its April 21 application.
"As the Cuba market has developed, load factors have improved on DL's existing flights to [Havana], with [Miami] having the strongest performance," the carrier said.
primary obstacle to large scale travel from the US to Cuba are US legal
restrictions that permit only "purposeful travel", the codified
When Congress ends travel
restrictions, holiday vacations will become possible for Americans in the well
developed resorts that serve nearly three million European and Canadian
tourists. The airlines won't have any problem filling seats.
American who go independently
under the individual general license for people to people travel find Cuba a
welcoming and inexpensive destination. http://tinyurl.com/NYTflyer
would be nice to hear that one of the airlines is seeking a slot to serve
Santiago, Cuba's second largest city.
offers unique historical attractions: the monument to the Rough Riders, the
Maceo Memorial, the Moncada Barracks with a good museum, the tombs of Jose
Marti and Fidel Castro.
Frontier never began its proposed service from Chicago to Santiago with a stop in
Florida. Silver's cancellation ended the only flight from the US. The closest
airport is in Holguin with daily service by American Airlines.
If the airline also flew on to Havana, returned to Santiago, then went back to the
US, it would address a great need for domestic air service and generate
additional business from Americans who find it very hard to visit both ends of