Southwest Airlines Reducing Flights To Cuba

Image courtesy of David Transier

In light of the Trump administration’s decision to further restrict travel to Cuba, Southwest Airlines has decided to scale back the number of flights it offers to the island nation.

Southwest announced today that it would consolidate travel to Cuba by ending service to Varadero and Santa Clara after the summer. Effective Sept. 5, Southwest will only be offering flights to Cuba’s capital, Havana.

Currently, the airlines flies three nonstop flights to Havana, two from Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and one from Tampa. Southwest has applied for a third daily roundtrip from Ft. Lauderdale.

The carrier says the change is meant to focus on customers’ desire for low-fare flights to Havana.

“Our decision to discontinue the other Cuba flights comes after an in-depth analysis of our performance over several months which confirmed that there is not a clear path to sustainability serving these markets, particularly with the continuing prohibition in U.S. law on tourism to Cuba for American citizens,” Steve Goldberg, Southwest Airlines Senior Vice President of Ground Operations and lead Executive sponsor for Florida, said in a statement.

That conclusion was similar to one reached by other airlines flying to Cuba. Spirit, Silver, and Frontier were approved for travel to the country, but dropped service to Cuba earlier this year amid waning demand.

Additionally, JetBlue and American revised their flights, shifting to smaller jets to minimize the number of empty seats, for the same reason.

Even with Southwest’s reduction of flights, there are several other airlines offering flights to the country, including American, United, Delta, JetBlue, and Alaska. Sun Country, which has been approved for travel to the country, delayed flights until this winter.

Earlier this month, President Trump proposed changes to existing Cuban travel policy that, once in effect, will heavily restrict travel to the island. The change also appears to indicate that the current administration has no immediate intention of permitting open tourism travel to Cuba, meaning demand for these flights likely won’t be growing at the rate these airlines had hoped.