Citing lack of demand and President Donald Trump’s new restrictions on travel to Cuba, Southwest Airlines has announced it will stop flying to Varadero and Santa Clara, Cuba, as of September 4.
Southwest said it will continue to fly to Havana, offering twice-daily nonstop flights from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) and once-daily nonstop flights from Tampa International Airport (TPA) in Florida. The airline has also applied with the U.S. Department of Transportation for a third daily roundtrip flight between Fort Lauderdale and Havana.
“Our decision to discontinue the other Cuba flights comes after an in-depth analysis of our performance over several months, which confirmed that there is not a clear path to sustainability serving these markets, particularly with the continuing prohibition in U.S. law on tourism to Cuba for American citizens," said Steve Goldberg, Southwest Airlines senior vice president of ground operations and lead executive sponsor for Florida in a written release.
Southwest said it would reach out to customers with reservations for travel to the affected cities on September 5 and beyond to offer refunds.
The move follows the June 16 announcement by President Donald Trump on new restrictions on travel to Cuba, rolling back some of the loosening of regulations that had taken place under the Obama administration. Under the new rules, Americans traveling to Cuba must meet one of 12 forms of approved travel as outlined by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) regulations, including authorized people to people travel with a tour group. Travelers are also barred from spending money at establishments owned by the Cuban military.
The move drew criticism from many of the Caribbean specialists we spoke with, with the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) saying that it was disappointed the administration “plans to turn back the clock on expanded travel and trade between the U.S. and Cuba.”
At the same time, major cruise lines were quick to point out that the new regulations would not have much impact on cruise travel, as many of the major lines we spoke with were already authorized to travel to the country under the people to people travel regulations.