Spirit Airlines will officially end its flights to Havana from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in June, the Miramar-based carrier announced. It is the fifth U.S.-based airline to cut back flights to Cuba this year.
“Due to overcapacity and the additional costs associated with flying to Cuba, we don’t find it sustainable to continue this service while maintaining our commitment to pass along ultra-low fares to our customers,” Paul Berry, a spokesperson for the budget carrier, told the press.
Spirit was approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation to fly twice daily to José Martí International Airport in Havana earlier this year, but the carrier overshot the demand for travel to Cuba. Like most U.S. carriers, the company had high expectations of the route, but poor demand is starting to take a toll. It joins Seliver Airways, JetBlue Airways, American Airlines, and Frontier Airlines in cutting down service to the island.
American Airlines was the first to see the writing on the wall. It announced plans to reduce service to its Cuba route last November. Silver Airways followed suit in December, announcing its intentions to reduce the number of flights to various destinations on the island. The Fort Lauderdale-based airline had ambitious plans to fly to nine stops in Cuba every day, but it had to make the “difficult but necessary” decision to cut flights to the island altogether last month.
Frontier Airline also announced plans to eliminate its Cuba route in June and JetBlue has switched to smaller planes on several routes from Fort Lauderdale, including Havana, Santa Clara, Camagüey, and Holguín, beginning in late May.
Several airlines applied to the Department of Transportation for permission to fly to Cuba after former President Barack Obama thawed relations between the two countries in 2014, allowing U.S. travelers to visit Cuba for cultural exchanges. There hasn’t been another time in the history of U.S. air travel where so many carriers added flights into a new market only for there to be so little demand.
“The problem here was that there was so little data to work with. Usually when an airline considers new nonstop service in a market, it can, for example, look at how many people are already flying between the cities on a connecting basis and try to project how many more might fly if a more convenient nonstop flight existed,” said Seth Kaplan, a managing partner at Airline Weekly, told news sources.
“In this case, there was just no scheduled commercial service at all, not even connecting service. . .they wanted to grab the scarce Havana rights while they could, but clearly they didn’t expect it to be this bad.”
American Airlines, Delta Airlines, and JetBlue are the only remaining carriers offering daily flights to the island from South Florida. The future of travel to the island remains uncertain as the Trump administration reviews all the new U.S.-Cuba policies enacted by Obama during his time at the White House.