“It's unfortunate,” John Kirby, Alaska’s vice president of capacity planning and alliances, told KOMO News in Seattle. “You never want to exit a route, but we are exiting the L.A.-to-Havana route and the last flight will be on January 22.”
Passengers who booked a flight after January 22 can switch to another airline at no additional cost or take a full refund.
On August 31, 2016, JetBlue operated the first commercial service from the U.S. to Cuba in more than 50 years. In the months that followed, eight major U.S. airlines, including Alaska, began flying regular service to the island. Alaska’s L.A. service to Havana began on Jan. 5, 2017.
Although Alaska cited several reasons for canceling the service, they all related to traffic. Flights to Havana started off strong, with high cabin occupancy throughout the summer. But starting in the fall, passenger numbers dropped off. Kirby blamed this in part to the start of hurricane seasons and a pent-up demand that “had exhausted itself.”
It could also be due, in part, to a government that has made American travel to Cuba confusing, if not more difficult.
Last week, the Trump administration rolled back some of the diplomatic thaw enacted by the Obama administration. Travelers who visit Cuba under “people to people” guidelines will have to book a tour with an official U.S. group, and a member of that group must accompany them on the trip. The administration also issued a list of more than 100 businesses, including 84 hotels, where American travelers cannot go.
“We really don't blame the administration,” Kirby said. “We knew going in there was a very fluid environment, there is a risk.”
Travelers can still take solo trips to Cuba under a “Support for the Cuban People” authorization, or on cruise ships.