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As US Interest in Cuba Grows, Airline Prices Nosedive

By: Elena Toledo - @NenaToledo - May 13, 2016, 12:56 pm
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The number of flights between Cuba and the United States is expected to spike this year. (AyE)

EspañolThe cost of flights between the United States and Cuba could fall by nearly half following the reestablishment of commercial routes, according to the Havana Consulting Group of Miami (HCG).

According to market projections evaluated by the HCG, passengers could save significantly in comparison with the cost they might be accustomed to paying on a charter flight.

The inclusion of North American companies such as American Airlines, Delta and Jet Blue in Cuba will drive prices down somewhere between 48 and 69 percent compared to the cost of 2015 charter flights.

The airlines have already announced that prices will be between US $150 and $250 for a flight to the island — a noticeable drop from the US $486 it cost the previous year.

According to HCG, market trends suggest that the number of commercial flights in 2017 could reach over 3,000, which would represent approximately 67 percent of total flights, as there will be 1,850 charter flights flying to the island as well.

This means that commercial flights in 2019 could make up over 98 percent of the airline market traveling between the US and Cuba, while the charter industry would drop to less than 2 percent.

On the other hand, the companies based in the United States far exceed those operating out of Cuba, suggesting they would only make up about 8 percent of the flight activity by 2019.

American Airlines is predicated to lead the Cuba-focused market, with an estimated 3,976 flights (or about two-thirds of the total market), following by JetBlue and Delta and 18 and 12 percent, respectively.

However, HCG also noted that Cuba may struggle to keep up with the surge of visitors, as there are currently not sufficient enough airports, hotels or general infrastructure for tourism.

Airlines prepare for operation

Direct flights to Cuba from the United States will begin this summer, ending years of charter-exclusive options.

Permission to fly to the United States comes partly in response to the many complaints made by the Cuban community, who was not allowed to visit United States for over 50 years.

American Airlines, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, United Airlines and Alaska Airlines make the list of airlines that have requested permission from the Department of Transportation and are still waiting for final approval.

American Airlines reportedly would be sending about 20 flights a day to Cuba from various cities in the United States, on top of the 10 to 12 flights a day sent to other islands in the Caribbean.

The Dutch airline KLM has announced that it will be increasing its flights to Cuba starting October 30, at which time a weekly direct flight will begin flying to the island, reported Cubaminrex.

The measure was taken in response to the growing interest in Cuba among the international community and the increase in the number of passengers that travel to the island’s capital from the Schipol Airport in Amsterdam.

Since 2012, KLM has linked Amsterdam and Havana with direct flights that have traditionally operated on a much smaller aircraft that will be replaced in 2016 with one that is 50 percent larger.

Expectations for number of visitors this year looks to be hovering around 3.7 million, according to the Ministry of Tourism. Between January and March the arrival of tourists will increase 13 percent in comparison to that same period in 2015.

Elena Toledo Elena Toledo

Educator by trade, social-media apprentice, activist for a democratic Honduras, and free thinker. Follow her on Twitter @NenaToledo.