The U.S. & Caribbean airline market
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With leisure travel booming since the end of the pandemic, airlines have expanded their flying from the U.S. to the Caribbean. The first quarter of the year (January to March) is typically the busiest season for this market. Looking ahead at the upcoming first quarter of 2024, which starts in a few months, total seats scheduled from the U.S. to the Caribbean will be up about 17% from last year. Versus the first quarter of 2019, they’ll be up 19%.
Total seats scheduled from the U.S. to the Caribbean will be up about 17% from last year.
You can see from the chart below, which is based on data from Cirium Diio, most of the market’s major competitors are growing, though Spirit is scaling back after a big expansion. Market dynamics would change significantly if Spirit completes its planned merger with JetBlue, currently the second largest airline between the U.S. and the Caribbean. Number one is American, thanks largely to its hub in Miami.
Puerto Rico’s capital San Juan is the Caribbean’s largest market by seats. Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic ranks second, followed by Montego Bay and Jamaica. Note that this analysis does not include Mexico but if it did, Cancun would rank number one, ahead of even San Juan.
The Caribbean is not a market with much business traffic but of course has lots of tourism and visiting friends and relatives (VFR). Both of these markets have seen a sharp recovery in demand after a steep decline during the pandemic. Airlines are now watching to see if that demand strength will keep going. As of now, their Caribbean capacity growth plans indicate that most are feeling bullish.
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