Topic of the Week: Cuba is Coming

Schedule Changes

With the news that relations are finally thawing between the US and Cuba, you know airlines are starting to drool over the possibilities. There are already a bunch of charters between the US and Cuba today, but as things liberalize, we’ll see sustained scheduled service. I’m expecting we’ll eventually see flights every 15 seconds between Miami and Havana, but where else do you think we’ll see service once relations normalize fully (meaning tourism is allowed)?

For what it’s worth, Cuba is an incredible place to visit. I was lucky enough to go in 2003 on a humanitarian visa and would love to go back. (Sadly, I flew Cubana on a leased in TACA A320. No exciting Russian metal for me.)

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16 comments on “Topic of the Week: Cuba is Coming

  1. The second largest Cuban community in the country is Union City, NJ, so expect flights from

    Also, take a look at the cities that feed the most Americans to Jamaica, Bermuda, Cozumel and Acapulco. Those resorts will wind up competing against Cuba’s resort cities.

    It will also be interesting to see if Havana becomes a cruise ship port-of-call in the future.

  2. How long until we see a McDonald’s or a Starbucks in Havana?

    I’m sure AA will run half hourly service…haha.

    Seriously though, the cargo alone will be crazy the first few years.Quite the bonanza for AA and everyone else with an airplane…

  3. First off, I do not think that relations with Cuba will really move forward all that much until the Republicans lose control of Congress. Obama just handed them a political issue to play with. Ignoring that, however…

    The major US hubs are a gimme IMHO. Others in particular: CLT, TPA and as a real long shot, maybe even BDL for the tobacco connections. BDL is almost literally right in the middle of fields of tobacco grown for cigar wrappers. Pennsylvania has most of the major online US cigar stores, so add Philly to the list.

    Also expect a mandatory Dulles or maybe even DCA flight, because this is going to require a ton of lobbyists, NGO, and govt people to make it work.

    My real question for you, Brett, is: Are there any routes from Canada or Mexico to Cuba that you think might shut down when there are no longer Americans hopping the border to try to get into Cuba?

    1. The only reason I see flights slowing down from Canada is when the big American corporations start ‘uglifying’ the island all the American businesses.

    2. Kilroy – I doubt it. My guess is that there’s just not a ton of US-based
      travel on those airlines. After all, if you’re going legally, there are
      plenty of charter options from the US.

    3. Canada-Cuba traffic is mostly seasonal charter traffic to Varadero and other Cuban resorts. That won’t be affected much by the restoration of U.S.-Cuban relations. (If there are Americans taking those flights, they are taking a real risk: CBP would be rightly suspicious of anyone returning from a Toronto holiday in January with a suntan.)

      Business-oriented traffic is limited to a pretty crummy once-a-day Air Canada Toronto-Havana Embraer flight, and Cubana’s little-known offerings. Do a Google flights search for YVR/YEG/YWG/YHZ-HAV to see just how bad scheduled service between two countries just 1,500 miles apart can get.

  4. I wonder which airline will open Cuba service from Tampa (a city known for its Cuban cigars.) JetBlue, American? Also, would Southwest open up Cuba service from FLL?

  5. Even if things get normalized, I doubt Cuba will allow an Open Skies arrangement which to be honest is in their best interest. Cubana would get eaten alive if there would be an Open Skies arrangement, so likely we will see some sort of arrangement where Cubana has one to one access to certain routes alongside an American counterpart. Cuba’s interest so far in making arrangements with outside interests is to form a 50/50 joint venture in order to retain some level of control, and at the same time get foreign cash infusion (for example they have a 50/50 arrangement with Imperial Tobacco in regards to Cigars and with Pernod in regards to Rum). They are not going to sell the the kitchen sink in this process.

  6. Having been to Cuba recently, I think the biggest issue is that a large influx of tourists would make for extremely painful travel for many years. They do not have the infrastructure to handle a significant expansion of tourism: hotels, restuarants, places to purchase any necessities, utility grids, etc. Making those kinds of changes would require a liberalization of Cuba’s property rights as well as privitazation of more businesses. Even getting banking and telecommunications connected will be a challenge. None of these items are included in this agreement.

    1. Actually, banking will be significantly easier as American’s will be able to withdrawal cash in Cuba from ATM’s. Now I’m not sure how many ATM’s there are actually IN Cuba all things considered, but it will not be surprising if they have a bunch of ATM’s with hilarious fee’s greeting tourists once they get off the plane. Getting of the State Dept’s list of sponsors of terrorism will also ease their re-connection to the global financial world, allowing the Cuban government to actually open up accounts abroad.

      It’ll be interesting to see where medical tourism goes in the long term, considering the possibility of low cost procedures in Cuba being accessible with a short trip from Miami. I think it’ll result in a significant number of people going, as well as an increase in medical exchange and potentially students going there (beyond the one’s going for free in the low income program that is operated now).

  7. I wouldn’t get my hopes up too much, at least short-term. There’s a snowball’s chance in Hades that we’ll see any loosening in official tourism restrictions. Both Republicans (Rubio) and Democrats (Menendez) will make sure any such attempts will meet the Filibuster of Death. That being said, it’ll happen eventually, and my guess would be the usual suspects, namely MIA and EWR. Of course that would be AA and UA. My guess is that NK or WN will also set up shop from FLL (possibly WN from TPA or RSW as well). I can already see the cheesy Spirit ads for flights to Cuba in my head now…

    Besides Florida and Greater NY, I think it just depends on how the market eventually shakes itself out. I agree with Sean S. and Shane that even if tourism restrictions are removed, we are most likely to see a gradual opening up of the markets, probably starting off with just a few flights a day for one lucky carrier and Cubana to and from Miami/NY and Havana. If Cuba is able to get its infrastructure in order, I suspect we’ll just see deck chairs moved around as carriers move flights from places like the Bahamas/Cancun/Jamaica/etc. to Cuba as demand shuffles around the region. Private property rights is going to be the big bugaboo IMHO. That can be addressed, but it’s going to take a fair amount of diplomatic negotiation, which is going to take time.

    1. Out of FLL, most likely will be B6, maybe WN, and possibly NK, but they are domestic strong, and they are not set up in Cuba like B6 already is with all the charters they do from FLL/TPA/MCO/JFK. As soon as the embargo is lifted, B6 just needs to pull the trigger, their brand is already known.

  8. I always laugh when I hear about USA/Cuba issues and how the Feds make it seem like there’s a giant fence around the island and do one can get on or off. Averaage Americans may not be aways of all the jumbo jets flying to Havana from Europe plus all the flights from Canada/Latin America. Cuba is not exactly a ghost island, but yes not having relations with it’s big neighbor sixty miles aways has made a difference.

    Outside of cruise ships stopping there and flights to south Florida, Cuba is not going to give the island over to US carriers if Cubana can’t match service. Things wouldn’t really ramp up until then and until US companies start moving in to Cuba like they do else where in the world.

    1. Everyone is saying that Cubana would need to have reciprocal service. Can they pass the safety regulations to fly to the USA? I don’t know their safety record and if they have clearance to the EU.

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