With Near-Empty Flights, Airlines Flee Cuba Market

a group of people on an airplane with flags

Remember when Cuba was the “It” destination, atop everyone’s where-to-go list? The airlines do, and wish they hadn’t bought into the hype.

Following a trickle of news regarding airlines cutting flights and downsizing aircraft in just the first few months after the resumption of commercial service after 50 years, two airlines have announced plans to withdraw completely from the Cuba market.

By April 22, Silver Airways will have eliminated service completely to all nine of its planned Cuba routes.

And Frontier will discontinue its Miami-Havana service on June 4.

According to USA Today, both carriers blamed overcapacity in the market for the cuts. A Silver representative is quoted as follows:

While the actual total number of passengers currently traveling to and from Cuba on all carriers combined is in line with what Silver originally projected, other airlines continue to serve this market with too many flights and oversized aircraft, which has led to an increase in capacity of approximately 300% between the U.S. and Cuba.

Assuming there is indeed that much excess capacity in the market, it will take many months for demand to catch up, if it ever does. If the remaining airlines continue operating their current schedules, with the same aircraft, waiting for sales to pick up, there will be plenty of empty seats on Cuba flights for the foreseeable future.

While that bleak outlook is undoubtedly bad news for the airlines, it’s a positive for travelers. The slack demand should keep airfares low. And frequent-flyer bonuses are likely on the horizon as well.

Reader Reality Check

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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and almost that long writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

This article first appeared on SmarterTravel.com, where Tim is Editor-at-Large.