American Airlines is cutting back its flights between the United States and Cuba, reducing service to once a day to three Cuban cities—Varadero, Holguin and Santa Clara—beginning February 16. The move, according to an American Airlines spokesperson, is designed so the company "can remain competitive" in the market.
The spokesperson added that despite these changes, American Airlines will remain the most active U.S. airline serving Cuba, with approximately 70 flights a week to six cities in the nation.
In addition, American Airlines says it will give Republic Airways, a regional partner that operates American Eagle flights, the rights to several flights a week to Camaguey and Cienfuegos. American Airlines will retain the future rights for those routes. The spokesperson declined to elaborate on the reasons for its service cutbacks.
Delta Airlines, which began service from the U.S to Havana on December 1, says it has no plans to reduce its flights. Havana is Delta's only destination in Cuba, and the airline is operating daily non-stop flights to the capital city between New York's JFK airport, Miami and Atlanta. According to Delta, the company is the only U.S. airline flying to Cuba today that also flew to Cuba prior to 1961, when it suspended service to the country in the wake of the U.S. embargo.
The other major airlines flying to Cuba—United Airlines, JetBlue and Southwest Airlines—did not respond to requests regarding any changes to their scheduled routes to Cuba.
The first U.S. approval for the re-launch of air routes between the U.S. and Cuba, more than 55 years after they were suspended, came in mid-June. Those approvals covered 155 combined weekly flights with authorized departure points of Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Philadelphia, Chicago and Minneapolis. The U.S. Department of Transportation then announced late last summer that eight U.S. airlines would be granted routes to Havana, and those companies began flying their approved routes this fall.