Alaska Air says 'no cigar' to Trump's Cuba travel restrictions

A birds eye view of Havana Cuba at night

Other carriers, however, have applied to USA authorities to take over rights that Frontier and Spirit have returned.

Alaska's daily flight originated in Seattle, stopped over in Los Angeles, and then flew directly from LAX to Havana's airport.

Reversing liberalized Cuba travel policies implemented by the Obama administration, President Donald Trump has effectively banned independent travel to the island for Americans and prohibited USA citizens from staying at a long list of hotels and restaurants with connections to the Cuban military.

Alaska started the Los Angeles-Havana flight on January 5, 2017.

"Over 80 percent of the traffic we were carrying was the people-to-people" category of people traveling on their own, classified as "individual education", said Kirby.

The Trump administration's shift in policy toward Cuba was a contributing factor. Those new travel rules, which took effect November 9, mean most Americans will once again be required to travel as part of heavily regulated, organized tour groups run by USA companies.

Spirit Airlines, Frontier and Silver Air have also pulled out of Cuba, leaving American, Delta, JetBlue and Southwest as the main USA carriers flying reduced schedules to the Caribbean island. Changes to USA policy last week eliminated that allowance.

Alaska's first flight to Havana, on January 5, carried a television crew as well as a trade and educational delegation including University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce, who was born in Cuba.

But this fall "we saw bookings drop off precipitously", he said.

Kirby said the anticipated pent-up demand for travel to Cuba materialized in the early going.

"A severe hurricane season didn't help", Kirby added.

Previously, Silver Airways and Spirit Airways announced they were ending their Cuba flights, and American Airlines is reducing the number of its daily flights to the island from 13 to 9.

Alaska has launched 44 routes this year, which continue to develop according to forecasts.

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