US airlines plan next move after Trump announces new policy toward Cuba

Airfare to Cuba expected to rise if airlines continue cutting flights

By Hatzel Vela - Reporter

HAVANA - For U.S.-based airlines, the coming months will be a wait-and-see game after President Donald Trump announced a new policy toward Cuba that some argue might hinder American travel to the island nation.

The U.S. is now the largest when it comes to capacity into Cuba, offering close to 27,000 seats.

Canada comes in second place with about 17,000 seats.

The top five are rounded out by Mexico, Panama and France.

"A lot got these wrong. A lot felt that the demand to fly into Cuba would be a lot stronger it has actually turned out to be," Richard Maslen said.

Maslen works for CAPA Centre for Aviation, an organization that delivers market analysis.

He said while several U.S. airlines have already cut back on service to Cuba, several have completely stopped flying to Cuba.

He said Trump's new policy could likely help with that trend.

"It's a supply and demand balance, and at the moment, the demand isn't there," Maslen said.

While U.S.-based airlines remain on a holding pattern, a new Spanish airline announced that it will start flying to Cuba.

The airline, Plus Ultra, will have a direct flight from Barcelona to Havana, with the inaugural trip scheduled for July 1.

Analysts believe nothing will change in the short term.

The market will continue to be the driving force for airlines in both Europe and America, but U.S.-based airlines are likely already analyzing numbers on daily flights to Cuba.

"I think what you may see is if one airline starts to make some cuts, then others may follow suit," Maslen said.

If that’s the case, ticket prices to Cuba are expected to go up.

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