by Denise Whitaker & Morgan Chesky, KOMO
KOMO News visited Cuba in January (KOMO Photo)
SEATTLE (KOMO)– Nearly a yr to the day it started, Alaska Airlines will likely be ending its service to Havana, Cuba in January.
The Seattle based mostly provider tells KOMO News their final flight is deliberate for January 22, 2018. The Alaska plane used for the reason that Havana route on January fifth, 2017 will quickly be redeployed to serve locations with greater demand.
“It’s unfortunate,” says John Kirby, Vice President of Capacity Planning and Alliances. “You never want to exit a route, but we are exiting the L.A.-to-Havana route and the last flight will be on January 22.”
Kirby stated they thought there could be numerous pent up demand after a greater than 50-year embargo on journey to Cuba. But it simply did not final.
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“It really took off in March and sustained itself through July and the load factors got into the mid and high 80 percent, so we did a good job,” he stated. “But then we saw a precipitous drop off in traffic starting into the fall season. I’m sure that hurricane season didn’t help as well but we really saw that the loads and the pent-up demand had exhausted itself, and we aren’t seeing any gains.”
Kirby additionally cited the change in regulation final week that “people-to-people” journey for schooling is now now not obtainable. About 80 p.c of Alaska’s flyers to Havana visited underneath that allowance. In June, The Trump administration introduced a coverage reversal could be coming to Cuba, stating modifications made underneath President Obama would now not apply.
“We really don’t blame the administration,” Kirby stated. “We knew going in there was a very fluid environment, there is a risk.”
When the airline launched its service to Cuba in January, it did so with restricted knowledge. Normally he defined that earlier than launching any service they collect and badyze knowledge, however there wasn’t any knowledge obtainable for this market, because it did not beforehand exist.
So what’s the response now, from Cuba?
“We have people actually, literally on the ground today informing the Cuban officials,” Kirby stated. “We haven’t gotten any feedback yet.”
Last week, the White House introduced a “blacklist” making dozens of Cuban inns, retailers, tour firms and different companies off-limits to U.S. residents as a consequence of hyperlinks to Cuba’s army, intelligence or safety companies. Still, the coverage is barely a partial rollback of Obama’s modifications. Cruise ship visits and direct business flights between the nations will nonetheless be permitted. Embbadies in Washington and Havana keep open. Bringing house restricted portions of rum and Cuban cigars continues to be allowed, officers stated.
“Cuba is still open for business,” stated Charel van Dam of the Cuba Travel Network. “It is still possible for people to travel, but I think these announcements will serve mainly as something to scare off people who want to visit.”
But Kirby stated that is the precise choice for the corporate.
“This is like nothing else we’ve ever done before. I would characterize it as a success that we were able to start up in a place like Havana, successfully,” he stated.
Pbadengers who had booked a flight after Jan. 22 will both be supplied a flight on one other airline at no further value or be supplied a full refund.
Amazon’s 2nd Headquarters might spur further airline service
Alaska Airlines is now closing its acquisition of Virgin America, so is what markets will the airline be trying to broaden to?
“I can’t speak of any new routes,” Kirby stated. But he did say there’s numerous curiosity in Seattle and the place Amazon will anchor its second headquarters.
“I attended a conference in Barcelona last month and everybody was asking me where is Amazon going to put their next headquarters and I said I have no idea,” stated Kirby.
He did say that we’ll see much more progress in Seattle with cities involved in Amazon’s HQ2, in search of service to Seattle.
Alaska has launched 44 routes this yr and the bulk are badembly or exceeding the airline’s load issue forecasts, the airline stated. The firm anticipates it is going to develop about 7.2 p.c this yr. As the airline appears forward to 2018, its planning for almost eight p.c community progress by including capability in primarily current markets.