Tuesday, November 21, 2017

DOT opens frequency allocation proceeding for Havana flights

Alaska Airlines’ decision to drop its daily Los Angeles-Havana flight has prompted the Department of Transportation (DOT) to start a frequency allocation proceeding for flights to Cuba’s capital from the US.

Alaska Airlines last week cited low demand for dropping the flight and said it would reallocate the aircraft to markets with higher demand. The carrier launched the flights in January 2017 and plans to end them in January 2018. Alaska Airlines will rebook passengers to other airlines or offer a refund.

The Trump administration earlier this month ended so-called “people-to-people” visits to Cuba. US travelers to Cuba must meet the criteria for one of several categories of State Department-approved visitors, including religious, family and sporting or cultural visits.

After the Obama administration loosened some of the rules in 2016, individual travelers used the people-to-people category for personal trips.

Alaska Airlines said 80% of its passengers on the Los Angeles-Havana flight were on people-to-people visits. “Travel is about making connections, and we were honored to have played a role in helping people make personal connections by traveling between the US and Cuba,” Alaska Airlines CCO Andrew Harrison said. “We continually evaluate every route we fly to ensure we have the right number of seats to match the number of people who want to go there.”

DOT reopened a frequency allocation proceeding in response to Alaska Airlines’ decision to drop the service. By the bilateral air services treaty signed between the US and Cuba, US carriers have the right to 20 daily roundtrips to Havana. When the frequencies became available in 2016, US carriers scrambled to secure what they thought would be the most lucrative of the Cuba rights.

However, because there had been no air service between the two countries since the early 1960s, no good data existed to guide US airlines, industry analysts said at the time. Since the flights were allocated in 2016, three carriers, including Alaska Airlines, pulled out of Havana service, making a total of four daily frequencies to Havana. (A fourth carrier, Silver Airways, did not serve Havana but decided to drop its flights to several secondary Cuban markets.)

Dallas/Fort Worth-based American Airlines, Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines, New York-based JetBlue Airways, Dallas-based Southwest Airlines and Chicago-based United Airlines continue serving Havana from several cities in the US.

Airlines interested in the frequencies vacated by Alaska Airlines, Frontier and Spirit have until Dec. 8 to submit new applications, DOT said.

(Madhu Unnikrishnan - Aviation Daily / ATWOnline News)

No comments: