Delta Eliminating New York – Cuba Service, Asks Why They Wore Those Che Guevara T-Shirts?

Three years ago I described Cuba flights as a new opportunity for airlines to lose money suggesting:

  • Pretty much all traffic for these flights will originate in the US. There’s almost no customer base to support these flights in Cuba.
  • Planes will be filled predominantly with leisure travel. Cuba isn’t a strong business destination.
  • Infrastructure in Cuba, from the airport to hotels, is wholly inadequate to match an aviation boom and influx of tourists.
  • It’s an expensive airport to operate at, with costs that make Miami look like Branson, Missouri.

Fishing on the Malecón in Havana

For those of you who think the issue is just the Trump administration taking a tougher line on Cuba, remember that American cut 23% of its Cuba schedule before Trump took office.

The DOT awarded a ton of service to Cuba in July 2016. It hasn’t lasted.

Back in the fall Alaska announced the end of its Cuba flying. We’ve seen cuts from Southwest, JetBlue, Silver Airways, Frontier and Spirit.

Now Delta is dropping New York – Havana service. Its once-weekly Airbus A319 will operate its last flight September 1. (HT: One Mile at a Time)

Delta will continue to funnel connecting traffic through Atlanta to Havana. And they’ll continue to compete with American Miami – Havana. JetBlue continues to offer daily New York JFK – Havana service.

Clearly though Cuba isn’t the airline gold mine carriers thought they were rushing into (as seemed obvious to this outside observer, though of course I was far from alone in this).

In Argentina at least there’s a saying that sums up past airline excitement over flying to Cuba, “Tengo una remera del Che y no sé por qué,” or “I have a Che T-shirt and I don’t know why.” Here are some contradictory symbols I came across on a local vehicle in Sri Lanka:

At one time Guevara was featured at the W South Beach. Airlines losing money probably have seen their Guevara excitement tempered, hopefully they’ll internalize what he — and the Cuban revolution — have done to destroy the lives of people there, not that US sanctions have helped matters.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Gary, could not disagree on each and every point you make as to why this and so many other Cuba services have failed. The bottom line is DONALD TRUMP. His imposition of rules preventing “Joe Wasp” from visiting is the primary reason these flights have been cancelled. The irony is that he did not touch the cruises which have now quadrupled in numbers with the cutback of air travel. Further with just 2 cruise ship berthing positions in Havana, the Cuban Govt. just last week signed a contract with a European firm to triple the cruise ship berths from 2 to 6. So the real story here is with whom at the top of the hierarchy at Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, or Carnival is so friendly with ?! Maybe the Miami Herald will do an investigation, we will see!

  2. My wife and I had an absolutely awesome (but too short) last-minute vacation in Cuba last year. Flew back & forth on those soon to be cancelled Delta non-stops from JFK. We stayed in AirB&B’s for several nights in each of Havana and Viñales. Executive Summary: world class: live Jazz, salsa (and lessons), food, horseback riding (if you know your way around a horse as I do, they just let you go out on your own and have a great time – try that anywhere in the US – it doesn’t happen), riding around in 1950s cars as taxis, and people as friendly as anywhere else in the world. They’ve had a troubled history, but seem to have come through without bitterness or resentment to Americans. My two years of high-school Spanish came in very handy and everyone was very patient with me. I’ll go back in a heartbeat. One caution: changing money at a bank is time consuming since our ATM cards won’t work (thanks to US sanctions). So do some planning and try to get the right amount the first time. The Europeans visiting Cuba laugh at us queued up Americans as they walk up to the ATM machines to get local cash in an instant.

  3. I am no fan of cuba, because of their political repression, and limits on speech, assembly, religion etc.

    But when you talk of destroying people’s lives….I will point out Cuba has power across the Island now. Puerto Rico? Nope. And a rate of violent crime far lower than on PR.

  4. @Gene – don’t you ever get tired of shouting in your own echo-chamber? You’re so predictably dull that you make graphite look like a sparkle-fest

  5. At least Cubans are the ones “destroying” their own lives instead of being exploited by Americans as was the case pre revolution. Certainly many Cubans desire a more open and free society. Still they seemed to be happy with their lives overall when I visited. Cuba has several advantages over US society including low crime, few drugs, easy access to health care among them. When lying Donald Trump comes up with a new outrageous claim every week about his own government and people think that’s nothing to worry about (this week its that Mueller is conspiring with dems to intervene in the mid-term elections, last week the FBI spied on his campaign, next week God only knows), Americans need to come down off our high horse about other forms of government.

  6. It’s all a matter of perspective. I’ve been traveling to Cuba since 1990. My last trip was in early April.
    For the first few years I traveled to the island, I might run into one or two other Americans. who weren’t of Cuban origin.
    Yes, many travel experts predicted that U.S. airlines were going overboard on Cuba.
    What you left out is that more Americans are cruising to Cuba. The number of cruises is way up compared to two years ago, and more are being planned.

  7. You don’t miss an opportunity to mention Che in your Cuba posts. How come you’re so fascinated with Che?

  8. I have gone to Cuba twice myself, once back in the early 2000s and then once a year or so ago with the latest hype…I have come away both times with similar impressions….every American should be forced to visit there once to see what a total disaster socialism / communism / authoritarianism is….Prices have really gotten nuts there for the level of services and quality of food…the bizarre thing is that a lot of the Europeans we ran into were raving about how nice the resorts were, but other than the actual beach, the resorts we stayed in would have been a 2 star anywhere else in the world…was really perplexing…the value proposition just isnt there..the place just feels old and tired and in need of a total gut rehab..

  9. @john “At least Cubans are the ones “destroying” their own lives”

    how do you figure that? do you see Cuba as a representative democracy? it’s a dictatorship.

    “Still they seemed to be happy with their lives overall when I visited.” Look up “preference falsification”

    What on earth does Trump have to do with this?

  10. @Gene — these flights weren’t going to work, regardless of who became President. Sad to see the changes to US policy last year, sure, but that’s not why these flights aren’t sustainable.

  11. @Gary, “At least Cubans are the ones “destroying” their own lives”

    how do you figure that? do you see Cuba as a representative democracy? it’s a dictatorship.”

    Wow! Newsflash – Cuba is a dictatorship. Everyone knows that, most importantly the Cubans. There is no preference falsification as many would prefer a different system as I stated in my comment: “Certainly many Cubans desire a more open and free society.” Still, Cubans appear generally happy. They have problems we don’t have, but then again we have problems that they don’t have. People can be happy with their lives even though they would prefer a different form of government.

    Look up self determination, Gary. The Cuban revolution was overwhelmingly popular. It was a choice by the Cuban people to overthrow a corrupt government that was running the country for the benefit of domestic elites and American businesses and organized crime syndicates. Of course, typical of most governments, the Cuban government failed to deliver many of the benefits it promised. It did deliver on independence (and the dignity that goes along with it) and that is very, very important to Cubans.

    To the extent that Cubans and their revolution are “destroying” their lives as you say, mistakes in their form of government are their mistakes (not foreigners) to make and correct when and if they see fit. While desiring better relations with the US, Cubans seem to be very proud of their independence, ingenuity, and egalitarian society (egalitarianism is a dirty word in America as Republicans have convinced many that widening the gap between the ultra rich and the rest of us is good for society). Look up preference falsification for that.

    Here’s what Trump has to do with it. When lying Donald Trump, President of the United States of America, does everything he thinks he can get away with to undermine critical institutions of democracy (the only guarantors of our rights and freedoms) like a free and independent press (except the Republican Channel, the American version of RT), an independent Justice Department, and a non-political judiciary, and betrays many of the principles this country was founded on by pandering to people’s baser beliefs, (some now get the idea that it is socially acceptable to make racist tweets or yell at someone in restaurant for speaking spanish) Americans aren’t in a position to promote our model or lecture others about “destroying their lives” or mistakes we think they are making. It is the institutions and rights put in place by the radically liberal (for their era) founding fathers that make America great not lying Donald Trump. I never thought I ‘d see the day when a POTUS could lie about all matters big and small and the country would accept it or make excuses for it. Look up preference falsification.

    Do you think the US functions as a representative democracy?

  12. “Look up self determination, Gary. The Cuban revolution was overwhelmingly popular. It was a choice by the Cuban people ”

    The Cuban revolution ended in 1959. How can your claims to popularity 60 years ago bind the Cuban people of today [most of whom weren’t even alive to give their consent!] to suffer under the resulting regime?

  13. @Gary, I don’t claim the revolution binds them. They are free to change their government or not as they see fit. They are well aware of their financial condition, but you can be poor and still have pride and dignity. The pride that I saw in those I came in contact with makes me think those folks are not “suffering” as much as you might think or our government would have us believe. They changed government once. They can change it again. But any mistakes will be theirs to make and correct. That is self determination.

  14. @john saying people living under dictatorship are simply free to change their government, and that if they don’t do that they must support it, is absurd.

    Are you suggesting Soviet people supported the regime and all of a sudden changed their minds in August or December 1991?

    Are you suggesting that the North Korean people support Kim Jong Un? How do you know?

  15. @Gary, “@john saying people living under dictatorship are simply free to change their government, and that if they don’t do that they must support it, is absurd.”

    Huh? Your statement is absurd. You are surely dreaming If you think I said anything close to that.

  16. @john you’re suggesting that they continue to live under the regime and thus support it. You cannot infer that. Their government impoverishes them, denies them basic human freedom, and you think they like it because .. health care (which isn’t as good as frequently claimed)?

  17. @Gary, I’m suggesting, inferring, or saying no such thing.

    What I said was from my observations Cubans are fairly happy people, happier anyway than you think and the propaganda our government would have us believe, (you made the leap to equating happiness with support for the government). How you got their is beyond me because I also said that many Cubans would like more freedom and openness in their society, that people can be happy with their lives even though they would prefer a different form of government, that their revolution and standing up to 60 years of US pressure to dictate how their country is run seems to have given Cubans a strong sense of independence and dignity, (Fidel’s regime and the current one might already have come to an end were it not for almost irrational US attempts to overthrow and punish it which only served to increase the popularity of the government we say we want to overthrow), that many Cubans want a better relationship with the US and that Cubans seem to be proud of their independence, ingenuity and egalitarian values. I think Cubans are happy that a revolution occurred.
    I think they would also like to see changes in how the country is run now as I said before. Those two things can be true.

    Let me clarify one thing for you to remove any misunderstanding. People living under dictatorship or any other form of government are “free,” as in have the ability, to overthrow or change their government. It is a dictator’s biggest fear and why many of the regimes you mention are so repressive. They know the root of their demise is all around them. They fear their own people and try to tightly control information and communications and rely on heavy doses of propaganda. In spite of the best efforts of the most determined despots, removing dictators happens all the time in history, whether communists, kings, fascists, military juntas, or corrupt governments. Usually internal forces cause the dictator to fall. It happened to Batista. It can happen to the Castro regime. It is not easy of course but when a tipping point is reached its bye bye dictator, off with his head. I think Kim’s people scare him more than a B-2. Still, other than extreme situations like genocide or something, I think it is best to let internal forces decide how a country is governed.

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