American & United Airlines increase airlift to USVI
The report, according to Caribbean Journal, came after a meeting between tourism and airline officials on the mainland last week.
After talks with United Airlines in Chicago and American Airlines in Dallas respectively, tourism commissioner designee Joseph B. Boschulte said there had been strong demand for seats to the territory’s airports on St Thomas and St Croix this past winter season, which is likely to result in additional capacity this winter season as well as the following summer.
Indeed, United is set to launch daily nonstop flights from Houston to St Thomas this summer, and would “also consider plans for new additional flights to St Thomas and St Croix the following summer,” he said.
“We have had some very important discussions about the future of airlift to the Territory and look forward to following up with our airline partners to ensure that we have adequate flights into our islands, especially as more accommodations come on line in the months ahead,” said Boschulte, who noted that United had already loaded new Saturday flights from Chicago to St Thomas before the upcoming winter season.
More flights under consideration
Boschulte also met with American Airlines in Dallas, with increased capacity from Chicago, Dallas and Miami all under consideration.
That’s along with the potential for growth out of the Charlotte hub, he said.
“”These meetings matter as we embark on a managed growth strategy through the full return of land-based tourism following the storms of 2017,” he said. “The travel and tourism sector is changing to meet its growth and is becoming more electronic and internet-based, but ironically, the more virtual it gets, the more important it is to regularly meet face-to-face with our partners,” Boschulte said.
Still no direct flights to the VI
Meanwhile, the Virgin Islands is yet to realise direct flights from the US mainland to Beef Island.
The former National Democratic Party (NDP) administration had failed in its bid to have this service established after their controversial deal with BVI Airways fell apart.
In December 2015, the then NDP government entered into an agreement with BVI Airways and injected into the foreign company $7 million, which then Premier and Minister of Finance Dr D Orlando Smith (AL) signed and said that it would be given incrementally over two years to help the company get off the ground.
However, within six months, not two years, BVI Airways had the full $7.2 M in hand with an increase of $200,000 fees for an account. According to the contract, the $7 million was supposed to act as a guarantee that BVI Airways got an annual return on investment of 20 percent in its first three years of existence.
In exchange, BVI Airways was to provide direct flights between Miami International Airport, Florida, USA and Terrence B. Lettsome International on Beef Island, VI.
The flights were to start in October 2016 and despite many other dates proposed, no flights materialised.
The saga had caused many internal fights among the then NDP elected representatives and members and some even said it might have been a factor in the party being booted from government at the February 25, 2019 General Elections.