Alaska Airlines is making its first splash in the Caribbean by bringing the Eskimo from Seattle via Los Angeles to Havana, Cuba. The new flight which launched today is Alaska’s only flight to a Caribbean country and the first and only regularly scheduled service between the West Coast and Cuba. Alaska will serve Havana 7 days a week from Los Angeles on their standard 737-900ER aircraft.
The inaugural flight started with a party in Los Angeles with plenty of good food, tokens of appreciation for passengers, speeches and more. The flight was not sold out, but this could also be due to the “strict” restriction which still does not allow for completely free travel to Cuba. Less than an hour before departure, expertflyer was showing more than 7 open seats in economy and 2 in business. The flight load was still over the industry average, hovering around 86%. As long as Alaska Airlines can keep flight loads high, Alaska should be able to sustain this route. Of course, there is always the risk of Alaska pulling out due to the long flight segment, especially if Alaska has to discount tickets to fill the plane.
Interesting enough, although Alaska does not offer commercial service to Cuba or the Caribbean, today’s flight is not Alaska Airlines first flight to Cuba or the Caribbean.
“While the inaugural flight to Havana is a first for Alaska, it isn’t the first time the airline has flown to Cuba. In the early 1970s, Alaska flew U.S. Military Airlift Command charter flights to the base at Guantanamo Bay, as well as charters to Caribbean locations such as Jamaica, Puerto Rico and Panama. Learn more about the charter service and explore Ernest Hemingway’s Havana at blog.alaskaair.com.”
Alaska Airlines Cuba flight schedule:
|Start date||City pair||Departs||Arrives||Frequency|
|Jan. 5||Seattle-Los Angeles||5 a.m.||7:39 a.m.||Daily|
|Jan. 5||Los Angeles-Havana||8:50 a.m.||4:55 p.m.||Daily|
|Jan. 5||Havana-Los Angeles||5:55 p.m.||8:45 p.m.||Daily|
|Jan. 5/6||Los Angeles-Seattle||11:45 p.m.||2:35 a.m.||Daily|
|Flight times based on local times zones.|
Alaska Airlines Blocks Mileage Plan Awards to Cuba
Flights to Cuba have been on sale by Alaska Airlines since September 10, 2016. Although the flights are for purchase, Cuba awards are not available. Alaska Airlines reports they are working to finalize details regarding award travel, but have no additional details to share. If trying to book an award trip to Cuba, an error will occur stating there’s no availability.
It seems odd to me that Alaska will sell a flight to Cuba, but not give away a free flight. In fact Alaska Airlines Mileage plan home page reads, “Mileage Plan gives you the world. Earn and redeem miles worldwide. It’s easy. Join Mileage Plan™ for free and fly with Alaska Airlines and any of our more than 15 global airline partners to over 800 destinations around the globe.” Yet as I’ve discussed before, Mileage Plan is full of false advertising and does not allow for worldwide award travel.
Alaska Airlines is blocking all award flights to Cuba, not just flights on Alaska Airlines. No partner awards are available either! In addition, Alaska has not even release an award chart for travel to Cuba on Alaska operated flights. The only partner awards that are currently available to the Caribbean are American and Delta.
Based on Alaska Airlines current award chart, it is almost safe to assume that Alaska will likely charge similar prices to Cuba as they do to Mexico and Central America. Alaska Airlines Mileage plan award chart is distance based for flights on Alaska Airlines. Los Angeles to Havana is 2,303 miles which places the award in Alaska Airlines highest award category. It’s likely that economy class tickets will be 17,500 miles one way and business class will be 40,000 miles. A steep premium for business class, but could possibly save thousands of dollars verse buying a ticket. Yet in this case, business class tickets would be cheaper on partner American Airlines than Alaska Airlines. Partner awards on American are only 17,500 for economy and 30,000 miles for business each way.
Hopefully Alaska will stick to their distance base award chart and not throw a curve ball and charge more for flights to Cuba due to its popularity. Expect award costs around the 17,500 mileage range for coach.
Today is a big day for the West coast and Alaska. Congratulations Alaska on starting regular commercial service to Cuba. Stay tune for updates for Cuba award travel.