Planning a trip to Cuba before March 18, 2017? Flying on JetBlue can earn you triple TrueBlue points for that trip. The company announced the new promotion this morning and registration is required before purchasing tickets.
Bonus offers are always nice for passengers but for the airlines such moves typically represent a means to induce more travel on poorly performing routes. And that should not come as much of a surprise with the new Cuba service. American Airlines is already culling some non-Havana frequencies and Delta is pushing its Cuba service through its Vacations package arm, despite the fact that US citizens are not legally eligible to take vacations in Cuba today. JetBlue’s move here is yet another way an airline can try to address weak demand.
It is also worth noting that JetBlue’s typical approach to a new market is to arrive with lower fares and to create a larger market for passengers. That’s very hard in the Cuban market where regulations, while only minimally enforced, still limit the eligible passenger population. And neither cheap fares nor bonus points can solve that part of the problem.
Put another way, the Cuba market has shifted from wholly isolated to massively over-served relative to the number of passengers who are likely to make the trip. That’s bad news for the airlines as they now sit on those Havana slots in anticipation of further liberalization of the market, opening it to free passenger movement between the two countries. That move worked for the legacy carriers at Tokyo‘s Haneda airport where each who held a night slot kept that when the slots moved to the more desirable daytime operations. But it is incredibly unclear how long the airlines will have to wait for that liberalization to happen.