Today Alaska Airlines announced that it will scuttle its daily nonstop flights between Los Angeles International Airport and Havana, Cuba on January 22, 2018. That’s slightly over a year since the carrier launched flights on January 5, 2017.
Alaska’s John Kirby told TravelSkills that demand for LAX-HAV had declined precipitously in recent months after a relatively strong spring and summer. “We think pent up demand for travel to Cuba has been satisfied,” he said. In spring and early summer Kirby said Alaska’s load factor was in the 70-80 percent range, but after that it declined to under 50 percent.
Then last week, the Trump administration reversed Obama’s more relaxed rules for travel to the island, making it more unwieldy and difficult for Americans to get there. That seems to have been the nail in the coffin for the service.
For those still interested in making the trip, LAX-HAV fares are currently running at about $323 round trip— not bad for a 4-5-hour, 2,300 mile flight in each direction. Kirby said that Mileage Plan program redemptions (starting at 35,000 miles round trip) for flights to Havana were insignificant over the last year.
The Boeing 737 used on the Havana flights will be re-deployed on a West Coast run (likely Seattle-Orange County) where the carrier is experiencing strong demand.
In a statement, Alaska Air said, “About 80 percent of Alaska’s flyers to Havana visited under a U.S. allowance for individual ‘people-to-people’ educational travel. Changes to U.S. policy last week eliminated that allowance. Given the changes in Cuba travel policies, the airline will redeploy these resources to other markets the airline serves where demand continues to be strong.”
It remains to be seen how or if the Trump administration will enforce the new rules. Some think that the move to tighten rules might only be window dressing to placate the mostly pro-Trump Cuban American community in South Florida. Stay tuned– “don’t ask, don’t tell” could be the new reality for American’s hoping to travel to Cuba.
As the slow winter months approach, I expect we’ll see even more reductions on nonstop flights between the US and Cuba.