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HomeNewsArchivesLANDING FEES CUT AGAIN BUT EFFECT TERMED IFFY

LANDING FEES CUT AGAIN BUT EFFECT TERMED IFFY

May 10, 2001 – In an effort to lure more airlines to the territory’s two airports, the Port Authority board of directors has reduced landing fees for the second time in seven months.
The board approved a 17 percent reduction in the fees on Tuesday, Gordon Finch, Port Authority executive director, said. The fee rate will drop to $2.50 from $3 per 1,000 pounds for "signatory" airlines — those carrying guaranteed bonds issued to expand the Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas. These airlines are American, Delta, US Airways and Continental.
Fees for non-signatory airlines will also drop, to $3.13 from $3.75 per 1,000 pounds.
Tuesday’s action follows the earlier cut enacted by the board last October. In total, the Port Authority has decreased landing fees 34 percent in fiscal year 2001, Finch said.
"Our fee reduction is a direct result of increased air traffic and a sign that our economy is turning around," he said. "And we hope this encourages more airlines to consider serving the Virgin Islands."
But even decreasing landing fees won’t guarantee more flights into the territory, particularly to St. Croix, Finch told senators on Wednesday. Speaking before the Economic Development, Agriculture and Consumer Protection Committee, he said that renovating the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport terminal and extending the runway by 10,000 feet won’t in themselves attract more flights, either.
What is needed is demand for St. Croix as a destination, he said.
And that same kind of demand, he added, is also needed for St. Croix to attract more cruise ship visits. Furthermore, he told the lawmakers, calls for St. Croix to become a homeport for a cruise line are unrealistic because of the island’s lack of hotel rooms.
St. Thomas, which had 1.6 million cruise visitors last year, is a demand port because of its reputation for shopping, Finch said. St. Croix had fewer than 200,000 cruise visitors, mainly because the government and private sector haven’t created a niche.
"If there is not demand for your destination, the cruise ships aren’t going to call there," he said. "If you’re not in demand, you may get some business. I think, in a large degree, that’s what happened with St. Croix."
As far as homeporting, Finch noted that the soon-to-be finished airport project will meet airline arrival needs, and ship fuel costs are low. However, he said, there remains the need for more hotel rooms and cheaper airfares.
Cruise lines, Finch said, "want to know there is an inventory of rooms at all times." And, he said, cruise lines look for regularly scheduled flights into a locale where they would homeport.
"Bottom line, they’re looking for a hub," he said. "Unless St. Croix develops that kind of airline that can be viewed as a hub, home porting isn’t going to be possible here."
Meanwhile, he said, while the renovated airport and extended runway on St. Croix could help attract more flights, "An airport is just a door. If you don’t have anything else other than that gateway to brag about, you’ve got zero -– zilch."

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