Airlines join fight for newly available flights to Cuba

Airlines compete after ultra-low-cost carriers open up slots

HAVANA – Four major airlines want more flights to Cuba. In the past couple of days, American, JetBlue, Southwest and Delta have applied for additional flights to the island nation.

The airlines want to fill the void left by Spirit, Frontier and Silver Airways -- smaller airlines that decided to leave the Cuba market.

"The airlines that went into Cuba first were all pioneers," said Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry consultant. "They're risk takers. They have revenues and profitability that allow them to take a long time look at Cuba."

The airlines left 21 weekly slots for three new daily flights to Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport. The aviation agreement allows for 20 daily flights between the two countries.

Harteveldt added that the pricing will depends on demand. A good sign is that two of the four airlines asking for more flights are low fare carriers.

"It's a good thing for consumers to have a selection of airlines especially if they're adding flights," Harteveldt said. 

More flights means more seats that have be filled and airlines have to compete to get you to book a ticket. Marlene Mokracek was visiting Cuba from Tampa and paid $177 for round-trip flights on Southwest. 

"I think it's going to increase ... I have mentioned I was going to Cuba and they sounded very interested," Mokracek said. 

Harteveldt believes the rigorous process of traveling to the island could be dissuading tourists. 

"If the U.S. and Cuba are able to link up financially and so it's easier for American travelers there for example to withdraw cash at Cuban bank ATM or use their U.S.-issued credit cards at the Cuban merchants that will help with travel to Cuba," Harteveldt said. 

Changes related to financial regulations between both countries are in the hands of the U.S. Congress.


About the Author: