KING 5’s Aviation Specialist Glenn Farley reviews.
Glenn Farley, KING
6:41 PM. PST November 14, 2017
Barely a yr after it started, Alaska Airlines will finish its groundbreaking first west coast flights to Cuba.
The airline has utilized to finish flights on January 22, 2018. It started flights on January 5, 2017.
“Initially, my optimism seemed warranted,” stated John Kirby, Alaska vp of planning and alliances. He’s the corporate government who appears for brand new alternatives and markets.
It took a couple of months for site visitors to construct, and by July 2017, Kirby says the as soon as every day flight to Cuba was flying about 85 p.c full. Then got here the autumn.
“In the fall period we started to see a precipitous drop off, and probably not helped by a very severe hurricane season,” stated Kirby. “We found a lot of pent up demand started going away, and subsequently this decision on re-regulation.”
In early November, the Trump administration finalized its guidelines once more limiting journey to Cuba. Americans can nonetheless journey there, however the revised guidelines largely limit journey to organized tour teams, placing an finish to a lot of the person journey taking place underneath academic or so referred to as “people-to-people” exchanges opened up underneath the Obama administration.
The Trump administration has stated its motive in limiting journey is designed to stop money from flowing to the Cuban navy and management, significantly by way of possession of sure lodges and eating places.
Related: Cuban entrepreneurs fearful in regards to the Trump impact
Kirby says over 80 p.c of the tickets his airline was promoting was for particular person journey, however he’s not fast accountable Washington.
“We knew this was a real risk going in. We knew it was a very fluid environment,” he stated, including, “When traffic is embargoed for over 50 years there’s not a lot of data to go with.”
In different phrases, the Cuban market was onerous to forecast, and another U.S. airways have additionally left Cuba.
The flights are regulated by each the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Cuban authorities. By giving up its slots in Havana, Kirby expects these slots will probably be taken up by different carriers. That stated, he feels Alaska may once more fly to this as soon as utterly forbidden territory for Americans.
“There are no absolutes in the airline business,” stated Kirby. “So I wouldn’t rule out a re-entry if market conditions change.”
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