Alaska Airlines has announced it will end its daily flight between Los Angeles and Havana, Cuba, because it anticipates a lack of demand following President Donald Trump’s recent proposal to heavily restrict the “People-to-People” outreach program in Cuba. The last flight is planned for January 22. Alaska guests who have travel booked to Havana after that date will be rebooked on another airline at no additional cost or offered a full refund.
According to a statement issued by the airline, about 80 percent of Alaska's flyers to Havana visited under a U.S. allowance for individual "people-to-people" educational travel.
“Changes to U.S. policy last week eliminated that allowance,” Alaska Airlines said. “Given the changes in Cuba travel policies, the airline will redeploy these resources to other markets the airline serves where demand continues to be strong.”
Last week, Trump announced a plan to restrict the outreach program from allowing non-sponsored groups to visit Cuba for the purpose of culture and education.
For those who aren't terribly familiar with the program, the “People-to-People” initiative requires Americans to take part in various cultural experiences in Cuba, essentially, as the name implies, putting them in direct contact with the people of Cuba with hopes of learning about the way of life in the country.
It was implemented by President Clinton in 1999 and suspended by President Bush in 2004 before President Obama resurrected the program.
Under Trump’s new proposal, the program will now be permitted only for sponsored groups in the United States, and with the participation of representatives from those groups, according to CNN.
Individuals traveling under the “People-to-People" outreach program will no longer be able to visit the country, except where travel arrangements have already been made, or in cases where these individuals are accompanied by permitted, U.S.-based sponsors, according to CNN.
Alaska started the Los Angeles-Havana flight on January 5. Alaska has launched 44 routes this year, which continue to develop according to forecasts. The company anticipates it will grow about 7.2 percent this year.
As the airline looks ahead to 2018, it's planning for nearly 8 percent network growth by adding capacity in primarily existing markets. Redeploying aircraft and crews will help the airline support the growth, according to the airline.
"Travel is about making connections, and we were honored to have played a role in helping people make personal connections by traveling between the U.S. and Cuba," said Andrew Harrison, chief commercial officer for Alaska Airlines, in a written release. "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."