American Airlines has asked permission to discontinue its
daily Charlotte-Havana flight and instead add a daily flight from Miami to
However, the Department of Transportation must remove the
gateway conditions on the awarding of Cuba routes in order for AA to gain that flexibility.
Currently, 20 daily Havana flights are permitted to fly from
the U.S., but American's motion said the last time that level of service was
available was May 2017. American noted that a handful of airlines have canceled
Havana routes since then, including Alaska Airlines, Delta, Frontier and Spirit.
Silver Airways and Southwest have since halted U.S. routes to secondary Cuban
While Cuba traffic surged when the Obama administration
loosened travel restrictions in 2016 by allowing Americans to travel to Cuba
without an authorized tour group, the Trump administration rolled back the policy
"and caused U.S.-Cuba traffic at many gateways to drop significantly,"
"Route flexibility will enable carriers to respond
quickly and efficiently to the unusually frequent and marked changes in demand
for U.S.-Cuba travel since the re-introduction of scheduled services in 2016,"
American's filing states. "Passengers will be the winners as scarce
frequencies will be more likely to remain in continuous usage and to be
directed to gateways with the greatest demand."
American said the Charlotte flight's load factor was just 55%
in the first six months of 2018 -- "substantially lower" than the year
before. AA operates five daily flights between Miami and Havana, and the
airline would like to make it six. The airline said demand is high in South
Florida, where there is a large Cuban-American population.
American argued that carriers should have the ability to
match Cuba capacity to demand.
"Without this flexibility, carriers, passengers and the
Department must endure lengthy and repeated frequency allocation proceedings
before frequencies can be moved to other gateways," American said.