Tag Archives: American Airlines

American Airlines trims Cuba schedule, cites weak demand

passengers

USA Today

American Airlines is reducing capacity to Cuba, a cutback that comes just months after U.S. carriers rushed to start regular service there amid loosening travel restrictions between the nations.

American will not drop any of its recently launched routes to Cuba, but will instead drop one of the two daily flights that it currently flies between Miami and each of the Cuban cities of Holguin, Santa Clara and Varadero.

American’s schedule to Havana – which launched just this week – is not currently targeted for cutbacks. American offers four daily round-trip flights to Havana from its hub in Miami and one daily round trip from its Charlotte hub.

The reductions to the three smaller cities will hit in February, reducing American’s flight schedule to Cuba from 13 flights a day to 10.

American cited weaker-than-expected demand for the reduction, adding the decision had nothing to do with the results of the U.S. presidential election in November.

“These adjustments are part of the regular evaluation of our network,” American spokesperson Matt Miller told Air Transport World. “And the changes were loaded into our schedule the first weekend of November — before the election.”

Some airlines declined to comment on their new routes to Cuba, but Delta and Spirit each told Bloomberg News that their bookings were in line with expectations. However, Spirit spokesman Paul Berry added that carriers appear to be keeping Cuba fares as they try to fill seats.

“When fares are as low as ours, that means there’s a lot of capacity,” Berry said to Bloomberg.

When Cuba opened up to U.S. airlines earlier this year, nearly all rushed in with requests to add new service to the island — especially to Havana. Against that enthusiasm, however, some industry executives openly wondered whether demand would live up to the hype.

Without regular airline service to the island in five decades, there was little data available to carriers in trying to assess potential demand for flights to new destinations. And unlike other foreign markets, Cuba remains a unique and highly regulated place for U.S. airlines to do business.

In October, American dropped its first suggestion that Cuba flights were underperforming during a call to discuss its third-quarter earnings.

“I think everyone is struggling a little bit in terms of selling in Cuba,” Don Casey, American’s senior vice president of revenue management, said during that call. “There a lot of restrictions that are still in place that has made it difficult to sell.”

Despite those comments, American was quick to affirm its commitment to competing in Cuba.

“We’re in it for the long haul,” American CEO Doug Parker added on the same call. “This is really a new market. We’re excited to be the largest carrier there. We’re committed to Cuba and making it work.

 

American Airlines discriminates against Cuban-American crew members to satisfy the Castro regime

americanairlines

Another American company violating the right of Cuban-Americans in order to obey the stupid laws of Cuba’s dictatorship.

Shame on you American Airlines!

The Miami Herald

Cuba won’t allow Cuban-Americans flight crews to stay overnight, so an airline grounded them

When American Airlines launched the first of an unprecedented 12 daily commercial flights from Miami to six cities in Cuba, the company rolled out the Cuban-American brass to mark the milestone at Miami International Airport.

At a pre-flight ceremony, the executives evoked their emotional connection to the business at hand — winning the bid to fly the largest number of commercial flights to Cuba.

“Today is historic not only for American Airlines, but also for Miami, the heart and soul of the Cuban-American community in the United States,” said Ralph Lopez, American vice president of Miami hub operations, before the Sept. 7 departure to the city of Cienfuegos on the southern coast of the island.

Fernand Fernandez, American’s vice president of global marketing, spoke of the “pride and excitement” he felt.

“This flight is not only important to our airline, to our 12,000 employees here in Miami — many of them Cuban-American — but also… this is of huge importance for Miami-Dade County, home to so many Cuban Americans like my parents.”

Behind the scenes, however, another story played out.

When doing business with Cuba, all those American Airlines employees of Cuban origin Fernandez heralded in his speech don’t have the same rights as their U.S.-born counterparts, or their Latin-American counterparts, or their counterparts born anywhere else in the world for that matter.

That first “historic” flight brought home the point.

A Cuban-born crew member arrived in Cienfuegos without a Cuban passport — required for anyone born there who left the country after 1970, even as babies — and a brouhaha ensued with Cuban authorities on the ground. The crew member was not allowed entry, much less the required overnight rest stop after a crew member flies 12 hours.

Questions were posed by AA to authorities: What happens in the future if there’s a flight with a mechanical delay and the crew that includes a Cuban American is grounded overnight? What will happen, routinely, with the two Varadero flights that require the overnight stay of the crew?

The answer: Only in the most “extenuating circumstances” would Cuba allow an exception to its separate set of archaic travel requirements for Cuban Americans. No overnights for Cuban-American crew members. Period.

Now the Dallas-based airline, which makes its schedules far from Cuban politics in Texas, had to identify Cuban-American employees and take them off Cuba flights that required an overnight stay.

“Please remember that those who are Cuban born should be removed with pay from Cuba flights until we can verify what requirements the Cuban government has for these crewmembers,” says an AA memo to managers that a source shared with me.

And I have to ask: Can you imagine in your company a staffing memo that says, “Please remember that those who are Israeli born should be removed?”

Or, please remember that those who are (fill in the blank any other place of origin) should be removed?

The Cuban government’s long arm is cherry-picking the assignments of employees of an American company. How is that for a historic development?

Sounds as outrageous as when Miami-based Carnival Corp. denied bookings to Cuban Americans on its cruises to the island because of an archaic Cuban maritime law that said Cuban Americans could not arrive by sea.

Now with commercial flights, an American company once again finds itself in the position of having to discriminate against a class of people — their employees of Cuban origin.

“No crew member born in Cuba is allowed to enter Cuba unless they meet immigration requirements,” American spokeswoman Alexis Aran Coello confirmed. “That’s a Cuban government demand. That’s not something we’re saying. We are abiding by the laws of the Cuban government.”

Cuba’s discriminatory rules also apply, of course, to the flight crews of JetBlue and Spirit, which also recently began commercial flights, and to the others that will soon follow them.

This is the price of doing business with the still-repressive and antiquated Cuban government: Giving up American ethics for a piece of the action.

Complying with the Cuban government’s discriminatory policies against Cuban Americans — spelled out in the U.S. Embassy’s website as a warning to travelers — is a choice. Airlines need to negotiate harder. Enough of an uproar from the traveling public convinced Cuba to change its maritime rule and allow Cuban Americans to travel there on cruise ships.

On the American side, strides have been made in the last 18 months since President Barack Obama announced an end to hostilities between the two countries. But the Cuban government remains stuck in anti-exile, anti-American bellicose mode despite documented evidence that a growing number of Cuban Americans strongly support President Obama’s engagement policy and the reestablishment of relations. For the first time since 1991 Florida International University began surveying Cuban Americans, a new poll shows that a majority — 54 percent — said support the lifting of the Cuban embargo.

Cuba, however, has a long way to go to show it is seriously interested in being a travel destination for all Americans.

Perhaps customer response, if not companies, might help move the needle: Saturday’s flight on American to Cienfuegos had 53 out of 120 seats empty as of this writing. It may be the slow season, but were it not for Cuba’s restrictive policies, there might not be a single seat left.

As Americans know well, discrimination is bad for business.

Pact on U.S.-Cuba Flights Reopens Battle for Property Stolen by Castro

José Ramón López, 62, the exiled heir to the Havana airport and to Cuba’s national airline
José Ramón López, 62, the exiled heir to the Havana airport and to Cuba’s national airline

The New York Times

The Obama administration’s top transportation officials will join Cuban dignitaries at the Hotel Nacional in Havana on Tuesday to sign an agreement that will restore commercial airline service between the two countries for the first time in more than 50 years.

José Ramón López, 62, the exiled heir to the Havana airport and to Cuba’s national airline, was not invited.

This being Cuba, even a significant diplomatic announcement has a back story involving old wounds, confiscated properties and uphill legal battles.

Mr. López is the son of the former owner of the airport, whose property was seized by the Communists after the triumph of the Cuban revolution. He says he deserves compensation if the United States is going to agree to a commercial deal involving the airport with the government that stole his inheritance.

“The airport in Havana is private property — mine,” Mr. López said. “How are American corporations going to go there and benefit from it?”

Mr. López says his is a cautionary tale that highlights the perils of doing business in Cuba, where unresolved, decades-old disputes complicate efforts by Cuba and the United States to resume not only diplomatic relations but also economic ones.

Mr. López is a former Cuban merchant mariner who left Cuba in 1989 and moved to Miami seven years ago. He has paperwork showing that he is the only child of José López Vilaboy, an associate of Fulgencio Batista, the Cuban dictator who was overthrown early in 1959.

Mr. López Vilaboy ran to safety on Dec. 31, 1958, when it became clear that a young bearded rebel named Fidel Castro had defeated the Batista forces and that the dictator would step down. Mr. López Vilaboy hid in the Guatemalan Embassy for nine months before fleeing the country; his properties were immediately seized.

Among his many holdings were a bank, a couple of hotels, factories, a newspaper, two airlines and Rancho Boyeros, the airport serving Havana now known as José Martí International Airport.

As far as the new Cuban government was concerned, Mr. López Vilaboy’s many properties were the fruits of his close relationship to a corrupt regime.

Mr. López Vilaboy eventually arrived in South Florida, and he lived quietly in a two-bedroom apartment in Miami Beach until his death in 1989.

He never saw his son after he left Cuba.

In 2010, a probate court in Miami declared Mr. López to be one of Mr. López Vilaboy’s heirs.

Over the years, he met with various lawyers, but he said they shrugged him off, viewing him as just one of the thousands of Cuban-Americans who lost property in the revolution — which they had little chance of ever getting back.

Then it was announced late last week that the American secretary of transportation, Anthony Foxx, and the assistant secretary of state for economic and business affairs, Charles H. Rivkin, would lead a delegation to Cuba for a signing ceremony at the Hotel Nacional.

By the fall, United States airlines will operate 20 flights a day from the airport Mr. López still considers his.

“I just don’t understand how American corporations can do business with my property,” he said. “If they are not giving it to me, then pay me for using it.”

Mr. López enlisted the help of Andy S. Gómez, a retired scholar of the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami, who helped him arrange meetings to explore possible legal recourse. “Americans need to understand the risks of doing business in Cuba,” Mr. Gómez said.

He said the moment was particularly crucial now, as President Obama seeks to ease restrictions on doing business with Cuba and as more American companies flock there hoping to sign deals. Last week, the Obama administration approved the first American factory to operate in Cuba in more than 50 years, a small tractor company from Alabama.

The Helms-Burton Act, signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996, says that anyone who profits from properties that were confiscated from American citizens is liable for damages, even if the owner was not an American citizen at the time. Yet the law has provisos that allow the president to decide whether, for the sake of American interests, the law should be enforced.

It has pretty much never been enforced.

“It would be a slug fest,” said Pedro A. Freyre, a Miami lawyer who specializes in Cuban business deals. “It would be a brawl, a free-for-all, everyone suing every Canadian company, airline, hotel, you name it — and it would be detrimental to U.S. foreign relations.”

Martha Pantin, a spokeswoman for American Airlines, which is expected to bid for the Cuba routes, said Mr. López’s problem is one best answered by government agencies. “This is not an airline issue,” she said. Continue reading Pact on U.S.-Cuba Flights Reopens Battle for Property Stolen by Castro