Like many other airlines, Southwest made a big splash with their announcement of new flights to Cuba. However, with Trump’s recent changes on travel rules to Cuba and demand that was probably lower than most airlines anticipated, Southwest is now abandoning 2 out of 3 Cuba flight routes. Even though Southwest abandons Cuba airports in Varadero and Santa Clara, they are keeping their flights to Havana.
Southwest abandons Cuba airports
It is sad news to report that Southwest abandons Cuba airports in Varadero and Santa Clara effective the end of the day September 4, 2017. Southwest hasn’t even flown these routes for a full year when they (and many other airlines) are now reducing capacity given the struggles between our two governments and consumer demand that never met lofty expectations.
If you booked a flight to Varadero or Santa Clara for September 5, 2017, or later, Southwest “is reaching out to customers who held reservations for travel involving Varadero and Santa Clara on Sept. 5 and beyond to offer refunds of purchased tickets in those markets.”
A representative from Southwest had the following to say about Southwest’s changes in service to Cuba:
“Access to Cuba remains important to our South Florida Customers and this shift in focus will answer their continued calls for our low-fare value with bags fly free1 in serving the Cuban capital,” said Steve Goldberg, Southwest Airlines Senior Vice President of Ground Operations and lead Executive sponsor for Florida. “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.”
Southwest will continue to fly twice daily from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Havana and once a day from Tampa, Florida.
The Bald Thoughts
As much as traveling to Cuba sounds appealing, the reality is that it is very much a 3rd world country at the moment. The fact that our government still has a negative stance against them makes traveling (and investment by travel operators, like hotels, cruise lines, and airlines) that much harder. I can imagine that travel to Cuba will gain appeal over the next decade as relations thaw, but until then it is understandable that airlines like Southwest abandons airports like Varadero and Santa Clara and concentrate service in more popular destinations like Havana.