American Airlines has set its sights on Havana. The carrier is petitioning the U.S. government to take over two daily flights from Miami to Cuba that JetBlue Airways will abandon in April, according to published reports.
American currently operates six daily flights between Miami and Havana, and the two additional flights would create a virtual shuttle service between the two cities, industry sources say. The U.S. carrier was contacted for comment about its request to take over JetBlue routes, but has not responded.
In August 2016, the U.S. government, under the Obama Administration, resumed scheduled commercial airline flights between Cuba and the United States for the first time in more than 50 years. Under the original bilateral agreement, a total of 90 flights between the two nations were authorized. At one point, more than 70 weekly flights were taking place. But in October 2019, the Trump Administration rolled back the regulations, banning flights to Cuban cities other than Havana and giving airlines 45 days to stop flying to the provincial Cuban cities.
Havana flights are still permitted, but the airlines authorized for that route have been adjusting their schedules. Under the original Obama Administration rules, the U.S. government allowed 20 daily round-trip flights between cities in the United States and Havana.
The routes JetBlue is dropping include non-stop flights from Boston and Orlando, and it will reduce its JFK-to-Havana flights to once a week. JetBlue will continue to serve Havana with three daily non-stops between Fort Lauderdale and Cuba’s capital.
Other airlines serving Havana from the U.S. include Southwest, United and Delta.
The U.S. government also terminated permission in June, 2019 for cruise lines to dock in Havana and other Cuban ports. Between the new cruise ship rules, and now, the reduction in scheduled airline flights, U.S. travelers have been cutting back on their plans to travel to Cuba. But American Airlines has said it is requesting the additional flights in part to lock up those routes for a time in the future when demand rises.