American Airlines Eyes More Frequencies To Cuba

Despite ongoing sanctions against Cuba, which have resulted in several airlines dropping their flights, American Airlines is still keen to fly to the island. This week, the airline applied to the US Department of Transportation to fly two new rotations to Cuba after JetBlue announced it would drop the route from its schedule.

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American Airlines is looking to grow its flights to Cuba. Photo: Getty Images

After a huge fanfare during the Obama era of Cuba finally being open to tourism, the hype slowly died away after the Trump administration imposed further sanctions on the island.

Several airlines rushed to open routes to Cuba during 2016. Slowly, one by one, airlines have pulled out. But now, American Airlines is stepping up and not only maintaining its current slots but also bidding to take over the slots other airlines no longer want.

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The slots

There are only 20 flights a day allowed to fly to Cuba, and even then, only to Havana. Initially, these slots were fought over by airlines looking to cash in on the supposed rush of tourists to the little-explored island. However, as fresh sanctions have been imposed on the communist island, airlines began dropping like flies.

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First, Silver Airways and Frontier Airlines dropped out in 2017. This was swiftly followed later in the year by Alaska Airlines. Now, as JetBlue has announced it will no longer offer two daily flights. However, American Airways has applied for the slots.

JetBlue Cuba Havana Getty Images
Despite initial enthusiasm, JetBlue is now pulling out of Cuba. Photo: Getty Images

If successful, American Airlines will now offer eight daily flights with the new flights commencing on 4 June. The JetBlue flights are perfectly timed to fit a gap in American’s schedule. The two slots on offer would leave Miami at 11:40 and 13:40. American Airlines operates Boeing 737-800s on its current six flights, so would no doubt seek to utilize the same aircraft on the new slots.

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Restrictions

During the Obama era, there was a massive scramble for airlines to begin offering flights to a new, much-talked-about destination. But fresh sanctions by the US government means that only 20 flights a day to Havana are on offer. Previous routes to nine other Cuban cities were sacked.

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Air Force One arriving in Cuba in 2016 opened up a new era of flying to Cuba. Photo: Getty Images

Restrictions have been in place for a while now on commercial flights which have resulted in many airlines dropping their Cuba services. But now the restrictions have been extended to include public charter flights, perhaps American Airlines is wise in snapping up most of the Cuba routes.

The US Government sought to place restrictions on Cuba due to the country’s support of Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro. Tourism is a huge money-maker for the people of Cuba so by restricting flights, the government is to prevent money flowing into the country.

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In 2016, American Airlines operated the first commercial Miami-Havana flight in over 50 years. Photo: Getty Images

More demand

According to AVP, the restrictions have actually resulted in a spike in interest in travelling to the country. People are afraid the restrictions will tighten and flights will be cancelled completely. So, more people have been looking to get in before a total ban.

American Airlines echoed this statement by saying that there has been a huge demand for its current flights. No wonder they are looking to fly more often. But while this boom is good for the airlines, it may be short-lived. If restrictions are lifted, more airlines may compete for slots. But if restrictions are tightened, American Airlines may lose out on the investments they made by flying so regularly to Cuba.

Whichever the restrictions go, it could be difficult times ahead for American Airlines. What do you think? Is American right to snap up more routes or should they follow other airlines and let the routes go? Let us know what you think in the comment section.

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Gerry S

American has seen the writing on the wall. They are preparing to be at the forefront when the Trump administration collapses. Once that happens later this year they will be in a dominant position. Too bad though that their product is not that good. This position belongs to a better airline. Whatever, they made a smart move.

Vahe David Demirjian

Didn’t Trump say in 2017 he was slapping some sanctions on Cuba (e.g. state-run tourism sector) due to its poor treatment of dissidents? There’s no doubt that the Cuban people distrust Trump so much due to his rhetoric about immigrants, and his attitude at Cuba and Venezuela further feeds into their view of Trump as a 21st century Hitler. Having read Trump’s 2017 Cuba policy memorandum, it OK if an erratic Republican president makes Cuba pay for its repressive behavior by clamping down on some trade and travel, but there are still trade and travel avenues intact, and Trump’s stated… Read more »