Southwest Airlines has become the latest U.S. airline to trim back unprofitable flights to Cuba, keeping only its services to Havana.
Flights to Varadero and Santa Clara, major resort towns, will end Sept. 4. In a statement, the airline said “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.”
Airlines jumped feet-first into the Cuba market last year in anticipation of a wave of new visitors and a continuing erosion of U.S. regulations barring pure tourism as a reason for visits. However, the Trump administration is now once again requiring travelers to go in licensed groups. In any case, the ban on pure tourism has made flights to cities other than Havana less attractive.
On the other hand, cruise operators are doing very well. Not only are they equipped to provide the kind of group people-to-people activities required by the rules, they also bring their own infrastructure with them, freeing travelers from the sometimes frustrating-in-Cuba tasks of finding lodging, meals and other necessities where American credit cards also don’t work.