America, did you miss the travel industry’s memo declaring Cuba the hottest new destination?Apparently. Service to the long-time U.S. foe began in September, but after just five months the largest carrier to the island, American Airlines Group Inc., cut daily flights by 25 percent and switched to smaller jets on some routes.Meanwhile, Silver Airways Corp. reduced weekly flights to six Cuban cities and JetBlue Airways Corp. downsized its planes so as to match lower-than-expected demand.“It’s going to take a really, really long time for [Cuba] to become a Caribbean destination that’s as popular as some of the other ones,” Andrew Levy, the chief financial officer for United Continental Holdings Inc., told Bloomberg News in November.While the rest of the Caribbean is hopping with the U.S. winter break crowd, Cuba has some unique problems.The big one is that airlines, with no real idea about demand, were overly ambitious when they jousted for the limited routes allowed by U.S. regulators.With a mandate for only 110 daily U.S. flights — 20 into Havana, the most popular destination — the carriers tumbled over each other last year to get a piece of the pie, leaving the island oversubscribed.The air rush into Cuba “wasn’t based on demand but speculation. They had no history to look at,” said Karen Esposito, general manager of Cuba Travel Network, which specializes in tours to the island. Now they do.Silver Airways described additional obstacles, pointing to the complications accompanying U.S. travel arrangements to Cuba, along with too much capacity from larger carriers.Still, spokeswoman Misty Pinson said, the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based airline “is optimistic about the future growth potential in Cuba.”
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