Amer­i­can Air­lines to trim Cuba sched­ules

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

Amer­i­can Air­lines Group Inc will cut nearly 25 per­cent of its flights to Cuba in 2017, a com­pany spokesman said on Thurs­day, at­tribut­ing the move to travel de­mand rather than the elec­tion of Repub­li­can Don­ald Trump as US pres­i­dent.

Start­ing in mid-Fe­bru­ary, Amer­i­can, the world’s largest air­line, will of­fer one trip a day in­stead of two from Mi­ami to Hol­guin, Santa Clara and Va­radero, re­duc­ing its daily ser­vice to 10 round-trip flights from the cur­rent 13, spokesman Matt Miller said in a tele­phone in­ter­view. The air­line also hopes to lower ca­pac­ity on three of the seven routes it op­er­ates to Cuba. It plans to use a 128-seat air­craft be­tween Mi­ami and Hol­guin in­stead of a 160-seater, and hopes to con­tract out flights to Ca­m­aguey and Cien­fue­gos to a re­gional car­rier that would use 76-seat air­craft, pend­ing US reg­u­la­tory ap­proval. The re­gional part­ner is Repub­lic Air­ways Hold­ings Inc. “This was done purely to re­main com­pet­i­tive in the mar­ket,” Miller said. “We can’t spec­u­late on what the next ad­min­is­tra­tion may do.”

Air­lines are gen­er­ally ex­pected to per­form poorly when en­ter­ing a pre­vi­ously re­stricted mar­ket, but Amer­i­can’s de­ci­sion to prune its Cuban itin­er­ary two months af­ter start­ing ser­vice may come as a sur­prise in light of the in­dus­try’s en­thu­si­asm to fly to the Com­mu­nist-run is­land.

“If Amer­i­can can’t earn the profit that it re­quires from these routes, they’re go­ing to cut back on the fly­ing. It’s as sim­ple as that,” said Henry Harteveldt, founder of the travel con­sul­tancy At­mos­phere Re­search Group. Trump, who takes of­fice on Jan. 20, threat­ened on Mon­day to end the re­cent rap­proche­ment be­tween the United States and its for­mer Cold War foe un­less Ha­vana was will­ing to “make a bet­ter deal for the Cuban peo­ple, the Cuban/Amer­i­can peo­ple and the US as a whole.”.

The United States and Cuba be­gan nor­mal­iz­ing re­la­tions in De­cem­ber 2014 af­ter 18 months of se­cret talks and have since re­stored full diplo­matic ties. They reached a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing that al­lowed US air­lines to start sched­uled flights to Cuba this year af­ter a half-cen­tury hia­tus. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s ad­min­is­tra­tion has eased travel re­stric­tions for US ci­ti­zens, al­though gen­eral tourism re­mains il­le­gal. Repub­li­can lead­ers in the US Congress op­pose end­ing the decades-long trade em­bargo against Cuba. — Reuters

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