CubaBrief: Three U.S. airlines cutting back service to Cuba. Canadian jet plane’s landing gear sinks into runway.

A Sunwing Boeing 737 MAX 8 became stuck on a runway in Cuba, prompting the authorities to temporarily close the airport.

JetBlue has declared that all flights to Cuba will be discontinued after September 17, 2023. The announcement follows a drop in visitor numbers to the island and many regulatory restrictions for customers on both sides. JetBlue was the first US airline to fly commercially between the two countries in more than 50 years. It is currently ending scheduled services to the island after more than seven years.

Anamely Ramos denied the right to return home to Cuba in 2022

The article announcing JetBlue’s suspension of Cuba flights gave a number of reasons why including Cubans being denied the right to return to their homeland.

“Since last year, residents of Cuba have been facing numerous travel restrictions when attempting to enter the country from the United States. The Cuban government has been vocal about certain individuals who are prohibited from entering the country. A number of individuals have either been denied boarding or been refused entry into the country.”

American Airlines was called out by human rights organizations on February 16, 2022 for the airline’s complicit role in denying Cuban artist and dissident Anamely Ramos the right to return to Cuba. On June 25, 2022 Cuban professor Omara Urquiola was denied the right to board her Southwest airlines flight to Cuba. Both women remain stranded in the United States to the present day. There are others.

Omara Urquiola denied the right to return home to Cuba.

Delta Air Lines asked for a seasonal waiver for its frequency between Atlanta and Havana, as well as Miami and Havana, from October 29, 2023 through March 30, 2024. The airline hopes that demand will gradually rebound, allowing it to resume services in the future.

United Airlines plans to end flights between New York Newark and Havana, Cuba’s capital, at the start of the winter season 2023-24. The airline announced in a June 2023 notice issued to the US Transportation Department (DOT) that the 2,111-kilometer (1,140-nm) route will cease operations on October 29., 2023.

Strangely not mentioned by the above three airlines were safety concerns at the airport that could damage their aircraft..

A Canadian airline, Sunwing, reported an incident on August 30, 2023 in Cuba.

The aircraft was taxiing to the runway at Holguin Frank Pais Airport (HOG) for flight WG645 to Montreal Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport (YUL), according to The Aviation Herald. However, when the plane was lining up, its right landing gear collided with the runway shoulder and sank into the tarmac’s asphalt. The aircraft became trapped, briefly closing HOG.

Tour operators have shown callous disregard for the lives of their clients traveling to Cuba. Tourists were still being flown into Cuba by British and Canadian travel agencies in September 2017, while Hurricane Irma, a devastating category five storm with 180 mile per hour gusts, was bearing down on the island and a hurricane watch had already been issued.

Thomas Cook defended itself, saying the company followed the Cuban government’s emergency instructions to the letter, according to  BBC News. Cayo Coco took the full brunt of Hurricane Irma’s fury and was completely destroyed. According to The Independent (United Kingdom), they were flying holidaymakers into Cuba to Cayo Coco a day before the hurricane hit. According to CBC News (Toronto), Canadian tour operator Sunwing had elderly customers flying into Cuba 24 hours before the Hurricane hit, causing them to evacuate for their life.

Breaking Latest News, September 3, 2023

Business

Delta Air Lines and United Airlines Seek Inactivity Exemptions as Demand for Flights to Cuba Drops

September 3, 2023

Delta Air Lines and United Airlines Request Exemption from US Department of Transportation Due to Low Demand for Flights to Cuba

Just hours after the announcement by JetBlue Airways that it will suspend all flights to Cuba starting September 17, two other major US airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, have requested an exemption from the US Department of Transportation. The exemption is being sought for several routes to the island due to the depressed demand for travel between the two countries.

According to Online Aviation, both Delta Air Lines and United Airlines have asked the federal authority to suspend several of their frequencies during the fall and winter seasons. The airlines cite a current surplus of flights and seats compared to the demand, necessitating the need for a temporary halt in services.

Delta Air Lines, in particular, has requested a seasonal waiver from October 29, 2023, to March 30, 2024, for its frequencies between Atlanta and Havana, as well as Miami and Havana. The airline expresses hope that demand will eventually recover, allowing for the reintroduction of services in the future.

Meanwhile, United Airlines has already notified the Department of Transportation about the suspension of its services between Newark Airport and Havana, effective October 29, 2023. This move means Cuba will lose its only non-stop connection with New York. However, unlike Delta, United does not seek an exemption from inactivity for these frequencies. Instead, the airline plans to concentrate its operations on Havana from its hub at the Houston-Intercontinental Airport. Currently, United is the sole US airline that does not provide flights from Florida to Cuba.

JetBlue, the airline that first announced the suspension of its flights to Cuba, has also requested a three-year extension of inactivity for its weekly frequencies between the United States and Cuba. The request applies to its routes between Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Havana, as well as between New York and the Cuban capital. JetBlue has deemed the services to Havana unsustainable in the current market and will cease all operations to Cuba on September 17, 2023. Additionally, the airline has expressed its willingness to relinquish the frequencies so that other operators can use them.

These requests from the airlines reflect the ongoing crisis in Cuban tourism, with concerns raised about the quality of services compared to destinations like the Dominican Republic and Mexico. The industry’s struggles are further highlighted by the recent suspensions announced by Spanish airline Iberojet, which will halt its flights to Santiago de Cuba, and Iberia, which plans to reduce its itineraries to Havana to just three flights per week.

Sources familiar with the issue attribute the cancellations to low occupancy rates on the flights and challenges faced by the Santiago de Cuba destination. The insufficient hotel infrastructure and lack of activities for visitors are cited as key issues that Iberojet aims to address. The airline aspires to attract diverse tourists beyond the “ethnic traveler,” but Santiago de Cuba is deemed ill-equipped to meet these aspirations.

Should the US Department of Transportation grant JetBlue a three-year inactivity exemption for its frequencies to Cuba, the airline has committed to returning them sooner or accommodating any procedures if it decides to resume operations to Havana in the future.


Simple Flying, September 2, 2023

JetBlue Will Suspend All Flights To Cuba This Month

By Dr. Omar Memon

Summary

  • JetBlue suspending all flights to Cuba due to decline in travel and regulatory restrictions.

  • Restrictions on customers’ ability to enter Cuba and changes to the regulatory landscape have affected demand.

  • Suspension of Havana route allows aircraft and resources to be deployed to more favorable routes.

The New York-based hybrid airline JetBlue has announced the suspension of all flights to Cuba after the last day of service on September 17. The news comes after the decline in travel to the island and several regulatory restrictions for customers on both sides. JetBlue was the first airline in the US to operate commercial flights between the two countries in more than 50 years. After more than seven years of scheduled services to the island, it is now time to quit.

Suspension of all Cuba service

The airline that made history by operating the first commercial flight between the United States and Cuba in 2016 after more than five decades announced a strategic move. The 2016 announcement was a result of restored diplomatic ties between the two countries in July 2015.

JetBlue was the first to explore the potential of air travel to the island. Seven years later, things concerning Cuban routes look bleak for the airline.

The airline desires to discontinue all services to Cuba in an effort to concentrate on routes that show increased demand and perform better. The regulatory restrictions and economic relations are hindering the airline in coping with route performance. According to the airline officials,

Demand for travel to the island has been significantly affected by changes to the regulatory landscape and restrictions on our customers’ ability to enter Cuba. We look forward to resuming our service to Havana and continuing to pursue opportunities within Cuba should travel become more accessible in the future.

Since last year, residents of Cuba have been facing numerous travel restrictions when attempting to enter the country from the United States. The Cuban government has been vocal about certain individuals who are prohibited from entering the country. A number of individuals have either been denied boarding or been refused entry into the country.

Moreover, the country has struggled to regain the tourism with lingering effects of the pandemic. In January, Cuba required passengers to complete a pre-arrival form known as D’VIAJEROS. The airline is required to receive the completed form before traveling to the island nation.

JetBlue has shown the intention to resume services to Havana in the future should the travel conditions and demand become more favorable. Suspending the route to Havana also means deploying the aircraft and resources to destinations that are more favorable for the airline’s business model. Moreover, the airline is keen to concentrate on better-performing routes in the network.

The exit from Havana may lead to increased frequencies on other routes or the initiation of new routes by the airline. With the forecasted increase in travel during the upcoming winter season, airlines aim to cash on the opportunity by focusing on high-performance routes.

The carrier will proactively provide full refunds to customers who are affected by the suspension of routes to Cuba.

Source: NBC News

https://simpleflying.com/jetblue-suspends-flights-to-cuba/


Aerotime Hub, August 31, 2023

Sunwing Boeing 737 MAX becomes stuck on runway in Cuba, closing the airport

by Rytis Beresnevicius

2023-08-31

A Sunwing Boeing 737 MAX 8 became stuck on a runway in Cuba, prompting the authorities to temporarily close the airport.

According to The Aviation Herald, the aircraft was taxiing to the runway at Holguin Frank Pais Airport (HOG) for flight WG645 to Montreal Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport (YUL), Canada. However, as the aircraft was lining up, its right landing gear touched the runway shoulder, sinking into the asphalt. The aircraft became stuck, closing HOG for a brief period.

Videos shared on X (formerly Twitter) showed the aircraft immobilized on the runway at HOG.

Per the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Federal Notice to Air Missions (NOTAMs) System or FNS, a NOTAM was issued at 2:09 am UTC (10:09 pm local time) on August 30, 2023, warning operators that the airport was closed.

The NOTAM expired at 4:00 pm UTC (12:00 pm local time), on August 31, 2023.

According to flighradar24.com data, HOG had 10 scheduled flights for August 30, 2023, but only four flights were tracked by the service, compared to nine scheduled and seven tracked flights on August 23, 2023.

At the time of publication, three flights are scheduled to leave HOG on August 31, 2023, the earliest being VivaAerobus flight VB413 to Cancun International Airport (CUN). Meanwhile, a Condor flight to Montego Bay Sangster International Airport (MBJ), Jamaica, departed HOG at 5:56 pm local time on August 30, 2023.

“While taxiing for takeoff the aircraft entered the stop way off of the runway at Frank Pais Airport in Holguin, Cuba. There were no injuries to any customers or crew on the aircraft,” a Sunwing spokesperson said in an email to AeroTime.

They added that “customers were deplaned and supported with accommodations for the night”.

“Sunwing Airlines also notified the appropriate regulatory agencies as is standard protocol for these situations,” the representative concluded.

https://www.aerotime.aero/articles/sunwing-737max-stuck-hog

Aviation Week Network,  June 9, 2023

United To Return Newark-Havana Frequencies

David Casey June 09, 2023

U.S. carrier United Airlines is planning to discontinue flights between New York Newark and Havana, the capital of Cuba, at the start of the winter 2023-24 season.

In a notice submitted to the U.S. Transportation Department (DOT), the airline stated that the 2,111-km (1,140-nm) route will cease operations from Oct. 29. Currently, flights are offered once a day utilizing Embraer E175 aircraft.

The notice acknowledged United’s “best efforts to overcome challenging route economics” but ultimately led to the “difficult decision” of suspending flights. It added that customers affected by this service change will be provided with either alternate travel arrangements or a full refund.

United said it respects the DOT’s commitment to ensuring that limited entry route opportunities are used for the benefit of the traveling and shipping public. Consequently, it will not be seeking a dormancy waiver for these frequencies.

Instead, the Chicago-based carrier said it plans to focus on Houston George Bush Intercontinental (IAH) as its gateway to Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport (HAV). OAG Schedules Analyser data shows that United serves IAH-HAV daily at the present time using E175s and Boeing 737-800s.

United resumed commercial passenger flights between the U.S. and Cuba in November 2022 after a hiatus of more than two-and-a-half years because of the pandemic. It now provides about 2,300 weekly seats to and from Cuba’s capital.

The Star Alliance member’s exit from the New York-Havana market will leave JetBlue Airways as the sole provider of nonstop flights between the cities. JetBlue offers a weekly service from New York John F. Kennedy using Airbus A320s.

The wider U.S.-Havana market sees JetBlue fly 2X-daily from Fort Lauderdale (FLL) and Southwest Airlines offer 3X-daily FLL-HAV flights. American Airlines and Delta Air Lines serve Miami-HAV 8X-daily and 2X-daily respectively, while Southwest offers Tampa-HAV 8X-weekly.

David Casey

David Casey is Editor in Chief of Routes, the global route development community’s trusted source for news and information.

https://aviationweek.com/air-transport/airports-networks/united-return-newark-havana-frequencies