Last week, JetBlue announced that — effective May 3 — it would be reducing the capacity of its flights to Cuba, according to the Miami Herald.
As reported by USA Today, JetBlue is now the third U.S. airline to reduce the size of its service to Cuba, which has many travel experts speculating that demand for travel to the island nation isn’t what airlines thought it would be.
In August, JetBlue became the first U.S. passenger airline to complete a commercial flight to Cuba in 50 years, only months after Cuba and the United States agreed to resume scheduled air service.
But now, JetBlue has announced that it will be downsizing to smaller aircrafts on several of its Cuban routes, effectively eliminating 300 seats a day from its current Cuban flight schedule.
“We are continuing to operate our schedule of nearly 50 weekly round trip Cuban flights but have made adjustments to our fleet utilization,” JetBlue spokesman Philip Stewart told the Miami Herald. “It’s common practice to adjust schedules and fleet type based on customer preferences, especially on routes that are new to the network.”
As USA Today notes — having gone a half century with no commercial air travel between Cuba and the U.S. — airlines had almost no data to base their projections for demand. Despite that, airlines scrambled to secure flight routes in an out of the island nation.
Karen Esposito, the general manager of Cuba Travel Network, told the Chicago Tribune that the initial rush by airlines to schedule a large amount of flights to Cuba, “Wasn’t based on demand but speculation. They had no history to look at.”
Andrew Levy, the chief financial officer for United Continental Holdings Inc. told Bloomberg in November that “It’s going to take a really, really long time for [Cuba] to become a Caribbean destination that’s as popular as some of the other ones that are out there today. The infrastructure just isn’t there. I’m personally skeptical about the opportunity.”
The Miami Herald reports that American Airlines was the first to announce it was scaling back service to Cuba in November, cutting service to multiple cities on the island from twice daily to once daily. Then, in December, Silver Airways followed American’s lead, trimming flights on six of its nine routes to the island.