Alaska Airlines will end flights to Cuba, due to policy changes and fading demand

Cuban flag in Alaska Airlines jet
A Cuban flag was propped up on an seat in Alaska Airlines’ jet for the carrier’s inaugural flight to Havana in January 2017. (Alaska Airlines Photo via Twitter)

Less than a year after Alaska Airlines began daily flights to Cuba amid a burst of red-white-and-blue fanfare, the Seattle-based airline says it’ll end them in January.

Alaska said demand for the flights to Havana has faded after an initial burst of interest.

“Travel is about making connections, and we were honored to have played a role in helping people make personal connections by traveling between the U.S. and Cuba,” Andrew Harrison, chief commercial officer for Alaska Airlines, said today in a news release . “We continually evaluate every route we fly to ensure we have the right number of seats to match the number of people who want to go there.”

The Trump administration’s shift in policy toward Cuba was a contributing factor. Earlier this year, President Donald Trump tightened restrictions on business dealings , and last week, travel requirements were changed to rule out individual “people-to-people” educational travel to Cuba from the U.S.

Alaska noted that about 80 percent of its passengers to Havana visited under the people-to-people allowance. Now that that allowance has been eliminated, individual tourists would have to join tour groups with an approved guide — an arrangement that tends to be more expensive.

Other U.S. carriers have cut back on flights to Cuba as well, saying that the demand has been lower than anticipated.

Alaska’s daily flight originated in Seattle, stopped over in Los Angeles, and then flew directly from LAX to Havana’s airport. The return flight traced the route in reverse.

Jan. 22 will mark Alaska’s last flight to Cuba. Alaska said travelers who booked flights after that date will be rebooked on another airline at no additional cost, or will be offered a full refund.

The resources that have been devoted to the Havana route will be redeployed to other markets with stronger demand, the airline said.

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