American Airlines has asked permission to discontinue its daily Charlotte-Havana flight and instead add a daily flight from Miami to Cuba.

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 cities.

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," American said.

"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.


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