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JetBlue joins American in scaling back service to Cuba

JetBlue joins American in scaling back service to Cuba
American Airlines passengers arrive at Jose Marti International Airport on Nov. 28 in Havana. American Airlines and JetBlue have cut back service to Cuba. (Yamil Lage / AFP/Getty Images)

When the Obama administration announced an agreement last year to allow regularly scheduled flights into Cuba for the first time in more than 50 years, major U.S. airlines stumbled over each other to get access to the island nation.

But now JetBlue says it is reducing its service to Cuba, becoming the second U.S. carrier to cut back.

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In December, American Airlines said it would drop one of the two daily flights between Miami and the cities of Holguin, Santa Clara and Varadero. The company cited weak demand in reducing its schedule to 10 daily round-trip flights from 13, starting in mid-February. 

As of May 3, New York-based JetBlue will fly aircraft with fewer seats to Havana, Santa Clara, Camaguey and Holguin. In total, JetBlue will fly 300 fewer seats a day to the Cuban destinations.

JetBlue would not attribute the cut in capacity to a decline in demand.

"It's common practice to adjust schedules and … routes based on customer preferences, especially routes that are new to the network," said JetBlue spokesman Philip Stewart.

Meanwhile, Alaska Airlines, which flies to Cuba from Los Angeles, said it has not cut capacity or routes to Cuba. But a spokeswoman said it is common for new routes to take years to develop consistent demand.

"Leisure markets tend to take a little longer to mature than business markets, particularly markets like Havana that haven't had commercial air service for many decades," Alaska spokeswoman Bobbie Egan said.

To read more about the travel and tourism industries, follow @hugomartin on Twitter.

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