Alaska Airlines to halt flights to Cuba

SEATTLE — Alaska Airlines says it will stop flying to Havana after demand dropped and the Trump administration imposed new restrictions on travel to Cuba.

The Seattle-based airline said Tuesday that its last flight between Los Angeles and Havana is planned for Jan. 22.

Last week, the Trump administration put into effect rules that ended an allowance for "people-to-people" or individual travel to Cuba. Alaska said 80 percent of its passengers used that allowance.

Alaska began flying to Havana in January, but it says it was considering pulling out even before last week's change in travel rules.

After starting slowly — the Los Angeles-Havana flights were barely half-full in January — the airline was selling about 85 percent of the seats on average by April. Demand remained strong through the summer "but from there we saw softer bookings in the fall," said airline spokeswoman Bobbie Egan.

Caribbean hurricanes and the impending change in travel rules both contributed to lower bookings, she said.

U.S. airlines were eager to fly to Cuba last year after the Obama administration eased longtime limits on travel between the two countries. The airlines reconnected Americans to an island that had been virtually cut off by a 55-year-old trade embargo and a formal ban on U.S. citizens visiting Cuba as tourists.

But flagging demand and overblown expectations have led several carriers to end or reduce service to Cuba including American, Southwest, Spirit, Frontier and Silver Airways.

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