Alaska Airlines To Discontinue Flights To Cuba

An Alaska Airlines 737 pulls into the gate at Boston Logan Airport

Reversing liberalized Cuba travel policies implemented by the Obama administration, President Donald Trump has effectively banned independent travel to the island for Americans and prohibited US citizens from staying at a long list of hotels and restaurants with connections to the Cuban military. American Airlines announced in November 2016 that it would reduce its number of flights, before Alaska had even started operating. Alaska's last flight to Havana will depart on January 22, 2018, meaning the service to Cuba lasted just over a year.

Alaska said demand for the flights to Havana has faded after an initial burst of interest.

Last week's changes to that policy eliminated that allowance. The following month, flights reached 85 percent capacity.

Alaska says about 80% of passengers who travel on the Los Angles-Havana route did so under the US Department of the Treasury's "people-to-people educational travel" category.

But this fall "we saw bookings drop off precipitously", he said.

Last week, the Trump administration put into effect rules that ended an allowance for "people-to-people" or individual travel to Cuba.

"A severe hurricane season didn't help", Kirby added. With the new restrictions, "it didn't make any sense".

Now, with USA diplomats to Cuba experiencing mysterious ailments and symptoms that some say are the result of being bombarded with sound waves while in their hotels, the Trump Administration has made the regulatory changes.

The end of Alaska's Cuba flights is "as permanent as anything is in the airline industry", Kirby said.

Kirby said the anticipated pent-up demand for travel to Cuba materialized in the early going.

The acquisition of Virgin America has also meant that Alaska has "more opportunities than aircraft", providing good alternative uses for the jet now used on L.A. -Havana flights, Kirby said.

Alaska has launched 44 routes this year, which continue to develop according to forecasts.

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