HAVANA, April 14th Another U.S. carrier is saying ‘Adios’ to Cuba. Low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines plans to operate its last flights between Fort Lauderdale and Havana on May 31, an airline official said early Friday.
The news comes a little morethan four months after the Miramar-based airline began serving Havana with regularly scheduled twice-daily service from Fort Lauderdale as part of a slew of new U.S.-Cuba routes approved in 2016.
“We really wanted [Fort Lauderdale-to-Havana] to work, especially being South Florida’s hometown airline… and the ultra-low cost leader to the Caribbean, but the costs of serving Havana continue to outweigh the demand for service,” said Bob Fornaro, Spirit’s president and CEO, in a statement.
“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.”
Although Spirit’s Cuba flights between Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Havana’s Jose Marti international Airport will officially end June 1, the carrier plans to operate an adjusted schedule starting in May.
Effective May 3-24, the Havana service will operate once-daily only, but will revert to its twice-daily schedule from May 25-31, spokesman Paul Berry told the Sun-Sentinel.
“We’re in the process of contacting our customers who’ll need re-accommodations,” Berry said.
For example during the period when only one flight will operate, passengers already booked on its afternoon flight would be rebooked for the morning one, Berry noted.
For customers with flights booked beyond May 31, full ticket refunds will be given, he said.
In March, Fort Lauderdale-based regional carrier Silver Airways also made the decision to suspend service on its eight routes to Cuba effective April 22, citing lack of demand and competition from “too many flights and oversized aircraft” in the market.
A month earlier, JetBlue Airways, said it would begin operating smaller planes on routes from Fort Lauderdale and other U.S. cities to four Cuban destinations starting May 3. Those Cuba routes are Havana, Santa Clara, Holguin and Camaguey.
The announced pullouts from Cuba and schedule adjustments by American carriers are a continuing sign that airlines may have been too ambitious about the demand for regular flights to the Communist island following the restoration of U.S-Cuban diplomatic relations.
In December, American was the first to announce it would reduce service between Miami and Holguin, Santa Clara and Varadero to one daily flight starting Feb. 16, “to remain competitive in the market.”
American also serves Havana from Miami.
Today, travel to Cuba from the United States is restricted to 12 approved categories, such as educational and religious activities, family visits and humanitarian projects. A ban on leisure tourism to Cuba remains in force as part of the long-standing U.S.-imposed trade embargo against the Communist island.
As for returning to Havana in the future, Fornaro said: “Spirit will continue to monitor the Cuban market and if circumstances improve in the future, we would consider resuming service there.”