Alaska Airlines says it will stop flying to Havana after demand dropped and the Trump administration imposed new restrictions on travel to Cuba. American Airlines announced in November 2016 that it would reduce its number of flights, before Alaska had even started operating.
January 22 will mark Alaska's last flight to Cuba.
Alaska said demand for the flights to Havana has faded after an initial burst of interest.
CNBC reported on November 8, 2017 that Sun Country Airlines became the latest USA airline to abandon Cuba, relinquishing its right to fly from Minneapolis/St. Paul to the Cuban cities of Santa Clara and Matanzas "due to continued regulatory and market uncertainties". Changes to US policy last week eliminated that allowance. The following month, flights reached 85 percent capacity. The airlines reconnected Americans to an island that had been virtually cut off by a 55-year-old trade embargo and a formal ban on USA citizens visiting Cuba as tourists.
But this fall "we saw bookings drop off precipitously", he said.
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Alaska noted that about 80 percent of its passengers to Havana visited under the people-to-people allowance.
The U.S. Treasury Department last week reimposed Cuba travel rules that basically make Americans join expensive, tightly-regulated group tours or have a valid business exemption. "The hurricane season didn't help", as a record-setting storm season lashed both Cuba and the Southeastern U.S.
The end of Alaska's Cuba flights is "as permanent as anything is in the airline industry", Kirby said.
He said it had been hard for airlines to predict travel demand to Cuba: "Obviously with a country that was embargoed for 50 years there wasn't a lot of data". Alaska joins a parade of other US carriers who are trimming back flights to Cuba or dropping service entirely.
Alaska has launched 44 routes this year, which continue to develop according to forecasts.