FLORIDA, United States, Saturday July 1, 2017 – Southwest Airlines has joined several US carriers who’ve cut Cuba routes because they’re not performing as well as expected.
At the end of the day on September 4, it will cease flights to Santa Clara and Varadero, less than a year after introducing those services with much fanfare.
It will continue flying to the Cuban capital, Havana, which it currently serves twice daily from Fort Lauderdale and once from Tampa, and has applied with the US Department of Transportation for a third daily round trip from Fort Lauderdale.
“Our decision to discontinue the other Cuba flights comes after an in-depth analysis of our performance over several months which confirmed that there is not a clear path to sustainability serving these markets, particularly with the continuing prohibition in US law on tourism to Cuba for American citizens,” said Steve Goldberg, Southwest Airlines’ Senior Vice President of Ground Operations and lead Executive sponsor for Florida.
“Access to Cuba remains important to our South Florida customers and this shift in focus will answer their continued calls for our low-fare value with bags fly free in serving the Cuban capital.”
There was a rush by airlines to apply for the rights to serve Cuba’s international airports when the island opened up to US airlines last year. However, some of the new routes have not panned out as expected.
That, coupled with US President Donald Trump earlier this month ordering tighter restrictions on Americans traveling to Cuba and a clampdown on US business dealings with the island’s military, after his predecessor President Barack Obama loosened those restrictions, has influenced decisions on flights to the Caribbean island.
Last month, Southwest Airlines’ chief executive officer Gary Kelly had hinted that cutbacks might be coming, saying, “Cuba is something we’ll have to continue to watch. Havana looks like a normal developing market, and the other two cities have very modest traffic demand at this point….I don’t want to pull the plug yet, but the demand is going to have to pick up to sustain those flights.”
With its decision to nix the Santa Clara and Varadero routes, Southwest is offering refunds to customers with reservations for flights to those destinations beyond September 4.