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Routes into Havana Airport Forecast

By on April 11, 2016

SAN JUAN – Travel industry technology provider Sabre used its data to explore how travel to Cuba could develop over the next year.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) opened applications for U.S. carriers to fly into Cuba. Up to 110 scheduled daily flights are available for officially sanctioned commercial flights to Cuba’s 10 airports, including 20 daily flights into Havana’s José Martí International Airport.

Alaska, American, Frontier, Spirit, Sun Country, United, JetBlue, Southwest, and Delta are the biggest brands looking for a fixed number of routes, Sabre says. The DOT is expected to release the chosen routes by the summer.

The company’s services are used by hundreds of airlines and thousands of hotel properties to manage operations, including passenger and guest reservations, revenue management, flight, network and crew management. It also operates a leading global travel marketplace.

According to the travel company, American Airlines flew 1,200 charters last year to Cuba, while JetBlue also flies charters to Cuba. To be considered, airlines must submit details of the proposed routes, such as aircraft type and a prioritized list of origin cities.

U.S. carriers applied for about 50 daily flights to Havana from various hubs, far more than the 20 allotted slots. The breakdown of daily scheduled flights reveals significant bids from American, JetBlue and Southwest.

airlines to cuba

(Source: Sabre)

American tourism to the island increased 77 percent in 2015, for a total of 161,000 arrivals, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization.

Sabre quotes BusinessWeek, which highlighted some of the likely metrics for regulators, saying that “the size of a city’s Cuban-American population, along with which routes are most conducive to business travel and other commercial engagement with the island” will be prioritized.

The information supports some of the airlines’ applications “for a sizable share of the daily flights to Havana. For example, American argues that its strong hub in Miami is ideally suited to serve that area’s significant Cuban-American population,” Sabre says.

“While it’s never apples-to-apples (Sabre’s internal data set on American travel to Cuba is significantly large), our predictions considered gateway cities for travel to similar Caribbean countries,” the company explains.

The data, “which is pulled from an anonymized and blended (corporate/leisure) set sorted by date of booking,” shows the most popular gateway cities for travel to the Caribbean. A gateway city is the last city prior to flying to a country. So rather than showing the city a traveler started from, it shows the last city a traveler transited through before arriving in the country. Since passengers from other cities generally travel through hubs, the analysis shows the hubs the DOT would be most likely to consider for sanctioned travel to Cuba.

The countries include Barbados, Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Trinidad and Tobago. “Based on the assumption of attracting a mix of leisure, family and corporate travel, each of these countries have a similar profile and demographic appeal as that of Cuba,” according to Sabre.

Sabre gateway airport to Cuba“There are 20 daily flights in play – could the DOT match the current travel patterns to Cuba or will the government adjust these flights to match local Cuban-American populations with direct access to their families back home? There’s no easy answer but the data offers an insightful look at how many elements should be considered,” a Sabre article reads.

The company posits that the DOT could also look at which airlines market the most flights into the Caribbean, “which demonstrates deeper knowledge of the operational complexities of Cuba. An analysis of airline marketing codes shows that American, Delta, JetBlue and United are the most active commercial airlines in the selected countries.”


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