Demand for airfare to Cuba has slowed

Regularly scheduled passenger jet service to Cuba had been cut off for more than 50 years. Americans who wanted to go there had to go through third countries or take expensive charter flights that were notorious for long delays and steep baggage fees.

President Barack Obama renewed diplomatic relations with Cuba in 2015, and then brought back commercial airline travel last year. The companies that were authorized by the Department of Transportation booked routes not just to Havana, but also to less traveled cities such as Manzanillo and Holguín. With no history of commercial airline traffic to judge by, the airlines were largely guessing how many United States citizens and Cubans would line up for tickets.

United Airlines has service from Newark and Houston, and Alaska Airlines flies to Havana from Los Angeles. Delta offers three daily flights to Havana from Atlanta, Miami and Kennedy International Airport in New York. Destinations like Santa Clara proved to be less popular than the airlines had hoped, and some were forced to scale back.

“We started pretty big in Cuba,” said Laura Masvidal, a spokeswoman for American Airlines. “We made some adjustments to adjust to the market demand.”

Until February, American Airlines offered 1,920 seats a day to Cuba. The number dropped last month to 1,472, a nearly 25 percent reduction. The airline cut flights to Holguín, Santa Clara and Varadero to one daily flight from two, Ms. Masvidal said.

JetBlue Airways, which on Aug. 31 was the first to fly to Cuba, still offers nearly 50 weekly round-trip flights between the United States and four Cuban cities, but the airline recently switched to smaller planes.

“We have made some adjustment to aircraft types assigned to the routes, which is common as we constantly evaluate how to best utilize our aircraft fleet within our network,” said Doug McGraw, an airline spokesman.

Silver Airways has been flying 22 flights a week with smaller aircraft to nine Cuban destinations other than the capital, including Santa Clara, Holguín and Cayo Coco. Demand, Ms. Pinson said, was depressed by complications with online travel agency distribution and code-share agreements that still have not been resolved. The airline had already tried reducing its offerings.

The airline’s decision comes even as passenger traffic to Cuba is actually increasing at a brisk pace.

“The market is exploding,” said Chad Olin, the president of Cuba Candela, which specializes in booking trips to Cuba for the millennial traveler. “There is some demand adjustment happening as well, but net outcome is still one of the fastest growing markets in global tourism history.”

Mr. Olin said restaurants, bars and private home rentals are now much more crowded with Americans than even just a few months ago. “You hear American English spoken everywhere,” he said in an email.

And to hear the Cuban government media tell it, Americans interested in visiting Cuba were triggered by a message that told everyone to “travel now.”

The number of Americans who visited Cuba was up 125 percent in January, compared with the same month last year, the government reported, calling it a “virtual stampede.” Americans, the report said, were prompted by President Trump’s administration calling for a total review of the Cuba policies enacted by Mr. Obama.

Under the administration of George W. Bush, Cuban-Americans were limited to how often they could visit their families, so that niche also had a 38 percent increase, the Cuban media report said.

But it was still not enough to fill the flights.

“I think that a lot of airlines thought that there would be more demand than there is,” said Paul Berry, a spokesman for Spirit airlines, which flies twice a day to Havana from Fort Lauderdale. “Loads are not very heavy.”

Mr. Berry said there are still glitches, including not being able to easily use American credit cards. Cuban hotels are pricey, and some travelers are turned off by the extra costs for things like required traveler’s medical insurance and visas. The landing fees alone, Mr. Berry said, are sometimes more expensive than the actual airfare.

American citizens are still required to report which of the 12 authorized types of travel they are undertaking, which could also be limiting the number of potential passengers, he said. Religious and educational trips are allowed, but tanning on the beach is not. Many Americans are “not willing to flat-out lie” about why they are going, Mr. Berry said.

“A lot of people are not traveling; I think that’s why you see other airlines scale back,” he said. “There’s just not as much demand to go around.”

What to do if your plane is delayed or cancelled

 

(this is from a post on Wendy Herrin travel site)

We all know what it means when winter storms are on their way: delays, cancellations, long lines, and changed plans. But it doesn’t have to mean stress. Here are the steps you can take—and the tools you need in your arsenal—to prepare for anything the snow can throw at you this season. Safe travels!

Change your flight.
The simplest way to avoid the hassle of a storm is to avoid the storm altogether. So if you don’t have to travel when a blizzard is on the way—don’t. When big storms are expected, airlines will often take preemptive action and allow you to change your flight without fees. Check your airlines website or Twitter feed to find out more. If do you have to travel, consider rerouting your flight to avoid the storm altogether—look for hubs that won’t have bad weather.

Use the right technology.
Speaking of Twitter, watch your airline’s feed closely for info on flight changes or cancellations. Another option is to download the airline’s app, which will also keep you updated about last-minute things like gate changes or flight delays.

Other apps that come in handy during bad weather include FlightStats.com, which can alert to you delays or weather cancellations (sometimes more efficiently than the airline will), and LoungeBuddy, which will help you find pay-by-day airport lounges so you can relax a little while you wait for your flight. We’ve got a full list of problem-solving apps here, and more info on airport lounge day passes here.

Use the right humans.
Even with all the right apps, you might still need to talk to a real person to solve your travel snafu. A great way to avoid long hold times is to call an airline’s customer-service office in a different country (here’s more on how to never wait on hold with airline customer service again). Your credit card concierge can usually be of help as well, but you can also call in the experts and let them handle it for you: Brett Snyder of Cranky Concierge specializes in emergency air travel assistance, and his team is well prepped for messy weekends like this one.

Prep the kids.
If you have kids, and there’s a possibility you’ll be stuck in an airport (or on the tarmac) for a while, you might want to try some of these tricks for flying with toddlers contributing editor Brook Wilkinson. One of her secrets is to bring a bunch of new, very cheap toys to keep her son occupied. “Scour the library book sales and Target $1 bins for inexpensive options,” she writes. “Some of my favorites: play dough, pipe cleaners, magnetic playsets, and reusable sticker pads. On one flight, a pack of small monster trucks entertained Zeke for a good 30 minutes. Just make sure that you liberate toys from their plastic clamshell packaging at home, while you still have access to scissors!”

Do what you have to do to avoid as much stress as possible.
Business travel expert Joe Brancatelli once told me his three most sanity-saving travel tips, and this was one of them: “Even if it costs you a few bucks, do whatever you have to do to fix a travel problem on the spot so you can go back to enjoying your trip. Argue with the travel company about compensation later. But, within reason, fix the problem first, worry about compensation later.”

 

Condor Adds non-stop service to Germany

As part of Condor’s expansion, the airline will add non-stop service routes from San Diego, Pittsburgh and New Orleans to Frankfurt and beyond. It will also add non-stop service to Munich from existing gateways in Seattle and Las Vegas. Condor is currently the only discount operator in the U.S. with full-service, inclusive fairs in three classes of service, the airline said.

For bookings made from February 27 through March 5 for summer travel, the airline offers discount fares for flights from the U.S. to Europe. For example: flights from New Orleans to Frankfurt starting at $249.99 (one-way) in economy, $499.99 (one-way) in premium and $799.99 (one-way) in business class. After March 5, flights from Pittsburgh to Frankfurt start as low as $329.99 (one-way) in economy, $429.99 (one-way) in premium and $799.99(one-way) in business class.

This is the first time the carrier has flown from San Diego, Pittsburgh and New Orleans. The carrier currently serves the U.S. from Anchorage, Austin, Baltimore, Fairbanks, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Portland and Seattle.

The Condor route network includes more than 75 destinations with connections to more than 230 global destinations through partnerships with other carriers. All Condor passengers receive: complimentary checked baggage, complimentary beverages and meals along with complimentary entertainment.

Business class includes:

  •     Reclining seats
  •     A personal in-seat, touch screen entertainment system,
  •     Power and USB ports at every seat
  •     Five-course meals with complimentary wine, beer and cocktails
  •     In-flight, well-being amenity kit

Premium class includes:

  •     Added legroom
  •     Leg rests and adjustable headrests
  •     An in-seat entertainment system with an extended program
  •     USB ports at every seat
  •     Premium meals and complimentary beverages
  •     In-flight, well-being amenity kit

Visit www.condor.com

Airport Delays

New York’s LaGuardia airport was the most delayed airport in the United States in 2016, according to a new study by the Global Gateway Alliance (GGA) an organization dedicated to promoting the development of New York-area airports. Newark and JFK both finished in the bottom five according to the analysis, which compared delays at the nation’s top 29 airports for passenger traffic.

Newark had the worst on-time performance for departing flights. Key findings:

  • LaGuardia finished last among the 29 airports for on-time arrival performance, while Newark ranked 27th and JFK 25th
  • Newark had the worst on-time departure performance in the nation, dropping two places from last year, while LaGuardia held steady at 26th-most-delayed and JFK dropped one place to 22nd
  • Approximately a third of all arriving flights, or 28.1 percent, at LaGuardia are delayed
  • Salt Lake City had the highest on-time performance, with approximately 87 percent of flights arriving on time

“Once again, New York airports lead the nation for delays. So while the terminal redevelopment projects are important, these dollars won’t be enough unless we address the delay problem too. Put simply, our airports will just be nicer places to get stuck in,” said Global Gateway Alliance Chairman Joe Sitt. “The FAA must finally fully roll out NextGen satellite air traffic technology where it’s most needed; the New York airspace, and we have to look at how to expand runways to alleviate the chronic congestion.”

GGA is calling for a full roll out of NextGen in the New York airspace in order to alleviate the congestion in the skies and clear the way for more on time departures and arrivals. While New York and New Jersey are benefitting from some of the NextGen reforms, like the digital pilot communications program and curved approaches, these work better when the whole system is in place.

New York and New Jersey also need longer runways in order to accommodate growing passenger traffic and reduce delays, the GGA said. A study from the Regional Plan Association outlined four programmatic proposals for runway expansion at JFK and one for Newark to boost operations and reduce delays in adverse weather with minimal noise and environmental impacts. The proposals recommend expanding runway access into Jamaica Bay at JFK and building a third western runway parallel to the existing two at Newark. ReThinkNYC has also set forth a plan to extend runways at LaGuardia into Rikers Island.

Delay information is sourced from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics and was analyzed on a year-to-date basis for 2016. The 29 U.S. airports included each account for at least 1 percent of the nation’s total domestic scheduled-service passenger enplanements. A flight is counted “on time” if it operated less than 15 minutes after the scheduled arrival or departure time, and arrival and departure times are calculated from the arrival at or departure from the airport gate.

Source: GGA