JetBlue keeps on pushing for daily Boston-Havana flight

Posted: 14-Oct-16 10:52

After having lost their requested Boston-Havana route to rival Alaska Airlines, which recently won approval for their Los Angeles – Havana service, JetBlue is not giving up without a fight and has once again petitioned the DOT to reconsider their initial plea and strip Alaska Airlines from their approved route to replace it with a daily flight to the Cuban capital from Boston's Logan Airport.

JetBlue keeps on pushing for daily Boston-Havana flight

In light of a delay in Alaska Airlines launching their newly approved Los Angeles- Havana route, JetBlue is seizing the opportunity to remind the US Department of Transportation (DOT) of their keenness to operate their previously denied Boston-Havana route with claims that they could get it up and running in a short time.

By comparison, Alaska Airlines has asked the DOT for more time to implement their recently approved Los Angeles – Havana service, requesting to delay the launch of the route until January 2017 due to “commercial and operational challenges”. Their requested delay to take off to Havana skies on 5th January next year would happen 37 days after the DOT’s suggested 29th November, a date the government department had set as a precondition to awarding it such route. JetBlue didn’t waste a second rising to the occasion and asking the DOT to reject Alaska Airlines’ request to replace it with their suggested Boston-Havana route instead.

JetBlue considers their Boston Logan airport an important key market for their recently launched Cuba service and as such is not throwing in the towel easily, also asking the DOT to reconsider granting approval to this route and keep it as a “backup” option in case Alaska Airlines ends up deciding dropping out of the race and not to operating the route.

According to the newly revised regulations regarding travel to Cuba which now allow for the reestablishment of commercial flights to the island after a half-a-century hiatus, American air carriers are allowed to operate a total of 20 daily flights to Havana. The DOT had received such an overwhelming amount of proposed U.S.-Havana routes initially that it had to delay the announcement of which airlines it was granting approval to fly to Havana.

Such announcement was finally made in late August and JetBlue walked away with four approved Havana routes, one departing from New York and three from different Florida airports. However, three of their applied routes were declined; namely those from Newark, Tampa and Boston. While JetBlue’s recently approved Havana routes have not yet kicked off, the U.S. airline began flying to their newest Cuban destination of Santa Clara a few days ago.

But JetBlue regards Boston as such an important point of their departure routes to Cuba that after the government announced the 20 approved routes to Havana, it hit back requesting that Boston be given at least one weekly Saturday flight to Havana. In an earlier filing they expressed their insistence thus:

“Boston is one of the top markets in the United States, with significant connections to Cuba that will drive demand.”

In the meantime, and in light of U.S. travellers still being banned from travelling to Cuba for tourist purposes (instead they have to fit within one of the 12 approved categories of travel to Cuba as specified and amended by Obama’s administration), Alaska Airlines has given the DOT the following excuse to delaying their launch:

“US consumers’ travel to the Caribbean region during the holiday season is predominantly for purposes of vacation.”

Responding to this claim, JetBlue replied the same issues and concerns would apply to every other airline. In their counter-filing JetBlue suggested that if Alaska was concerned about the tourism-related travel ban not making its route viable, it should hand over its allowed frequency back to the DOT for reallocation to carriers like JetBlue, who:

“...are prepared to provide service to authorised customers.”

Also piling on the pressure for the Boston-Havana route becoming a reality, the Massachussetts Port Authority, which manages Logan Airport, had insistently lobbied the federal government to consider a weekly flight to Cuba from Boston. Citing the American city’s fitness for educational, humanitarian and other categories of approved trips to Cuba given its number of biotechnology, health care and higher education organisations, Chief Executive at Massport, Thomas Glynn, stated:

“These institutions have already generated demand for Cuba travel, vastly supplementing Boston’s Cuban-American population.”

Despite the DOT’s initial decision to decline Boston, another Massport representative revealed she was hopeful that as the flight restrictions were loosened, Boston will be eventually added to the mix. Spokeswoman, Jennifer Mehigan further said regarding JetBlue’s bid to overtake Alaska Airlines’ route:

“The competition for direct Havana service has been intense and JetBlue is going to make their business decisions based on what is best for them. We applaud their belief in a Boston route.”

Meanwhile, we won’t have to wait too long to hear back on the DOT’s final decision, whether it will grant Alaska Airlines its requested delay to take off (considering their Los Angeles-Havana route would become the only one from the US West Coast to touch down in Havana) or whether it might turn its eyes back to JetBlue and reward their insistence with final approval. Whatever happens, we’ll let you know in due course. Check back this space.


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