Less than a year after launching air service from Fort Lauderdale to Cuba, Silver Airways has announced that it is suspending all service to the island nation effective April 22.
And Silver Airways isn’t alone in exiting the Cuba market. Discount-carrier Frontier announced Monday that it is ending its daily flight from Miami to Havana.
Other carriers, including American Airlines and JetBlue Airways, have reduced service as well.
American had been offering as many as 1,920 seats a day to Cuba, primarily between Havana and Miami, before reducing the number of seats available by 20 percent. The airline also reduced service to the Cuban cities of Holguín, Santa Clara and Varadero to one daily flight from two.
JetBlue still offers nearly 50 weekly round-trip flights between the United States and four Cuban cities, but as recently switch from Airbus A320 aircraft that can carry as many as 160 passengers to smaller planes.
Overcapacity has been a concern since former President Obama loosened travel restrictions between the two nations in 2016.
In an interview conducted with Aviation Tribune just as his airline began service to Cuba, Sami Teittinen, Silver’s CEO, said he believed that his airline’s fleet of 34-seat Saab 340B turboprops were just the right size to provide service between Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, and the nine Cuban cities the carrier was authorized to serve.
In the end, however, even with Silver’s small aircraft, the capacity far exceeded demand.
“While the actual total number of passengers currently traveling to and from Cuba on all carriers combined is in line with what Silver originally projected, other airlines continue to serve this market with too many flights and oversized aircraft, which has led to an increase in capacity of approximately 300 percent between the U.S. and Cuba,” said Misty Pinson, director of communications for Silver.
“In addition to overcapacity, distribution through online travel agencies and codeshare agreements have been unavailable since airlines began servicing Cuba last fall,” she said in a statement.
“Now, six months later, this issue is still not fully resolved, resulting in depressed demand.
“This lack of demand coupled with overcapacity by the larger airlines has made the Cuban routes unprofitable for all carriers,” she said.
Pinson said that Silver Airways will continue to monitor Cuba routes and will consider resuming service in the future if the commercial environment changes.
Still, the number of Americans traveling to Cuba has soared over the past six months. According to the Cuban government, the number of Americans who visited Cuba was up 125 percent in January compared with the same month last year.
And Kayak ranks Havana as the number one trending destination in its 2017 Travel Hacker Guide.