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Spirit joins exodus from Cuba

Spirit Airlines will end service to Cuba, adding to a growing list of US carriers dropping flights to the Caribbean island nation after an initial wave of interest.

The Florida-based airline will operate its last flight from Fort Lauderdale to Havana on 31 May, says a Spirit spokesman.

Spirit now operates twice daily on the route, FlightGlobal schedules data show. It began flights on 1 December 2016.

The ultra low-cost carrier is the third US airline to abandon Cuba, months after scheduled flights resumed between the two countries amid much fanfare. US airlines had competed intensely among themselves for limited rights to serve Havana.

Silver Airways was the first to announce its departure from Cuba, with flights ending later this month. Denver-based Frontier Airlines will exit in June.

Even before Spirit began its flights to Cuba, chief executive Bob Fornaro had warned that demand for the service might not be as high as some US carriers made it out to be.

"Cuba operations for all carriers are going to be exceptionally high cost," he told analysts during an earnings call in October. "It's not going to be a game changer in terms of financial opportunity."

Fornaro added that Spirit would approach Cuban service "diligently and slowly", but also pointed out that the flood of capacity will not be a positive given that Cuba remains primarily a leisure destination.

Spirit's exit from Cuba will leave Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways operating between Fort Lauderdale and Havana. American Airlines and Delta Air Lines fly between Miami and Havana.

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