HAVANA, May 4th Cubana de Aviación is currently operating a skeleton route due to the impact of several crises.
The State Cuban airline faces the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and still carries the consequences of the flight CU972 that crashed almost three years ag,o, as well as the economic sanctions imposed by the United States. Let’s investigate further.
Cubana’s skeleton route
Looking through Cirium’s database, we can see how few flights Cubana de Aviación currently has scheduled. Between May 4 and 18, Cubana will operate 89 flights, an average of 6.3 per day.
- Cayo Coco-Havana: two flights, offering 996 seats
- Guantanamo-Havana, four flights offering 544 seats
- Nueva Gerona-Havana, 30 flights offering 4,080 seats. This one is the busiest route Cubana currently has.
- Havana-Ezeiza, two flights, offering 498 seats. This route will actually not happen due to the COVID-19 situation in Argentina.
- Havana-Madrid, four flights, offering 996 seats.
- Havana-Santiago de Cuba, offering 15 flights with 1,523 seats
If we compare this schedule with what Cubana had three years ago, we see a big difference. Between May 4 and 18, 2018, Cubana offered 487 flights, with 47,125 seats. It connected with 11 countries. These were Canada, Haiti, Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico, Argentina, Martinica, Spain, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic.
Then, on May 18, 2018, flight CU972 crashed outside Havana’s International Airport.
The origin of this new crisis
Cubana has not been able to steadily renew its fleet in decades. According to Planespotters.net, Cubana has a fleet of 16 aircraft. It is composed of three ATR 42/72, six Antonov An-148/An-158, three Ilyushin Il-6, and four Tupolev Tu-204.
Therefore, for many years Cubana relied on wet-leasing more aircraft. On May 18, 2018, one of Cubana’s wet-leased planes, a Boeing 737-200 owned by the Mexican company Global Air, crashed after leaving Havana. Onboard there were 113 people; only one survived.
The accident showcased Cubana’s financial and operative state. One day prior to the accident, the Cuban National Aviation Authority grounded one of Cubana’s An-158 due to technical issues.
Right about the same time, the US government increased its pressure on the Cuban regime. By October 2019, Cubana had to cancel several destinations and terminate several lease contracts due to the embargo. Last month, Arsenio Arocha Elías Moisés, subdirector at Cubana said,
“Since 2019, the cancellation of several leasing contracts has forced us to close a few markets like Mexico City, Cancun, Santo Domingo, Fort-de-France, and Caracas indefinitely, and we had to stop negotiating the launch of our route to Jamaica.”
The COVID-19 crisis
Like every other airline globally, Cubana de Aviación has faced the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cuba closed its borders and took a heavy economic toll of US$5.57 billion, the Government recently stated. In the last two years, Cubana de Aviación has had a net loss of approximately US$353 million, said Arsenio Arocha.
All of this has led to Cubana having only a few routes still active. Internationally, it is unlikely it will cancel its flight to Madrid due to the high importance of this market. Moreover, in the last few months, one of Cubana’s Il-96 has been flying the route Havana-Moscow-Gander-Havana, as reported by One Mile At A Time. (www. simpleflying.com )