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From Water Cannons To Cancellations: U.S. Airlines Cut Back Flights To Cuba

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Carl Juste
/
Miami Herald
A JetBlue flight from Fort Lauderdale - the first U.S. commercial flight to Cuba in more than half a century - lands in Santa Clara last August to a water cannon salute.

Last summer the first U.S. commercial flights to Cuba in more than half a century took off to jubilant fanfare - and landed to cheers and water cannon salutes. U.S. airlines were giddy about resuming commercial flights to the communist island.

Maybe too giddy.

On Monday, the Fort Lauderdale-based Silver Airways said it will drop its almost 20 weekly flights to Cuba next month. Frontier Airlines said it will cease its Miami-to-Havana service in June. Both companies cited weak demand and excess capacity.

Read more: U.S. Airlines Fly High In Cuba, But The Island's Economy Is Badly Grounded

They’re not alone. American Airlines recently dropped a number of its daily flights to Cuba. JetBlue is flying smaller aircraft to Cuba now, reducing its seats on those flights by 300 a day.

This despite the fact that Cuba saw a 74 percent rise in the number of U.S. citizens traveling there last year. The only explanation is that U.S. airlines simply overestimated the market – a lot.

In its statement, Silver Airways claims that since last summer there’s been a 300 percent increase in flight capacity between the U.S. and Cuba.

Experts say one factor is that U.S. travelers have discovered Cuba’s tourism infrastructure – especially hotel capacity – is still fairly deficient. That’s one reason the number of passengers to Cuba on cruise ships – which carry their own hotel rooms – is expected to rise this year.