Airfares, convenience emerge as fault line in Cuba flight applications
By Jeffrey Dastin
March 14 (Reuters) - U.S. airlines hoping to get a few of the limited number of flights to Cuba filed regulatory papers on Monday in response to rivals' applications laying out their best arguments for consumer travel to the Caribbean island.
The United States and Cuba signed an agreement a month ago restoring commercial air service between the former Cold War foes for the first time in decades. Under the agreement, 20 daily round-trip flights will be allowed to Havana but 13 U.S. carriers already have requested at least 52 flights per day, far exceeding the limit.
Airlines submitted responses to rivals' applications by the Monday deadline set by the U.S. Transportation Department for travel to the capital of Havana.
The filings come just before a trip to Cuba next week by President Barack Obama, the first by a U.S. president in nearly 90 years.
The arguments that emerged from the airline's filings contrasted low airfares and the convenience.
American Airlines Group Inc said nearly half of the entire Cuban-American population lives near its Miami hub, from which it applied for 10 daily flights to Havana. It said this gives it an advantage because a not-yet-lifted ban on tourism to Cuba means traffic must come from authorized travelers, such as people visiting family on the island.
"The frequencies proposed by JetBlue have no relation to demand," said American in its filing, claiming its rival to the Caribbean ran half-empty charters from nearby Fort Lauderdale to Havana.
American said 58 convenient connections via Miami would help it sell seats and serve more travelers globally, compared with JetBlue's alleged 15 connections via Fort Lauderdale. Continuación...