Southwest Airlines will join other U.S. carriers in reducing flights to Cuba, saying laws that restrict Americans from traveling there for tourism are constraining demand.
Southwest becomes the latest airline to accept that the industry, with little way to judge demand beforehand, was too optimistic when U.S. regulators allowed passenger routes to the island nation last year for the first time in decades. President Donald Trump added to the woes earlier this month by announcing restrictions that may stall U.S. business on the island. The new limits don’t affect airline operations to Cuba but may affect demand.
American Airlines and JetBlue previously trimmed their service to Cuba, while Spirit Airlines, Frontier Airlines and Silver Airways pulled out completely.
Southwest will drop service Sept. 4 to Varadero and Santa Clara and continue flying to Havana twice daily from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood and Tampa airports in Florida, the carrier said in a statement Wednesday.
“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, senior vice president of ground operations, said in the statement.
Southwest Chief Executive Officer Gary Kelly previously had said he would give the Cuba markets a year before deciding on continuing service. The Dallas-based carrier began flights to Varadero in November and to Santa Clara in December.
The airline is contacting customers holding travel reservations for those cities Sept. 5 and beyond to offer refunds.
Southwest is seeking U.S. approval for a third daily Havana-Fort Lauderdale flight from among those given up by airlines that have left the island. American, Delta Air Lines Inc., United Continental Holdings Inc. and JetBlue also are trying to secure those…