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HomeNewsArchivesCUSTOMS OVERTIME ISSUE HAS LIAT FLIGHT ON HOLD

CUSTOMS OVERTIME ISSUE HAS LIAT FLIGHT ON HOLD

Nov. 28, 2001 – Although LIAT has offered to pay overtime costs for U.S. Customs and Immigration staff at Cyril E. King Airport so its late flight can arrive and depart, the federal agencies aren't cooperating, according to a LIAT official and Gov. Charles W. Turnbull.
The governor wrote to U.S. Customs Commissioner Robert C. Bonner to ask for help in resolving the problem.
William Cherubin, LIAT's area manager for St. Thomas and St. Croix, said the airline's troubles began when security at airports in the region was increased following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Because of time-consuming security checks in Sint Maarten, the last stop before its planes hit U.S. soil on St. Thomas, LIAT was forced to push back the flight's King Airport arrival time to 8:25 p.m. from 6 pm. "We are staying on the ground on Sint Maarten longer," Cherubin said.
The St. Thomas departure time for the return flight to Antigua was changed to 8:55 p.m. from 7:05 p.m.
The flight was supposed to resume on Nov. 16 under the later schedule, but Turnbull said the area port director for Customs, Tarance F. Drafts III, refused on Nov. 19 to authorize overtime for personnel to process the flight, citing "budget and personnel constraints."
On Wednesday, Louis Harrigan, Customs assistant director on St. Thomas, referred questions to the Washington, D.C., Customs headquarters. No one responded to a message left with the press office there.
LIAT, which is based on Antigua, continues to operate two earlier flights a day on its Antigua to St. Kitts to Sint Maarten to St. Thomas route. However, Cherubin said the late flight was popular with island residents because it left after they finished work.
The night flight left St. Thomas for the return to Sint Maarten, St. Kitts and Antigua. Cherubin said the plane can carry 37 passengers, and "It was mostly full to capacity."
In his letter to the Customs commissioner, Turnbull wrote, "There are thousands of Virgin Islanders of Eastern Caribbean extraction who travel to and from their native countries, and we wish to maintain these linkages."
The governor said the LIAT flight is important to both the territory and the wider Caribbean. He said that providing overtime Customs and Immigration services for a small airline on the mainland may not be important, but the denial of those services to a small regional airline in the Virgin Islands has a serious impact and could pose a "financial challenge" to the airline.
Cherubin could not say how much the loss of the flight is costing LIAT.

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Nov. 28, 2001 - Although LIAT has offered to pay overtime costs for U.S. Customs and Immigration staff at Cyril E. King Airport so its late flight can arrive and depart, the federal agencies aren't cooperating, according to a LIAT official and Gov. Charles W. Turnbull.
The governor wrote to U.S. Customs Commissioner Robert C. Bonner to ask for help in resolving the problem.
William Cherubin, LIAT's area manager for St. Thomas and St. Croix, said the airline's troubles began when security at airports in the region was increased following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Because of time-consuming security checks in Sint Maarten, the last stop before its planes hit U.S. soil on St. Thomas, LIAT was forced to push back the flight's King Airport arrival time to 8:25 p.m. from 6 pm. "We are staying on the ground on Sint Maarten longer," Cherubin said.
The St. Thomas departure time for the return flight to Antigua was changed to 8:55 p.m. from 7:05 p.m.
The flight was supposed to resume on Nov. 16 under the later schedule, but Turnbull said the area port director for Customs, Tarance F. Drafts III, refused on Nov. 19 to authorize overtime for personnel to process the flight, citing "budget and personnel constraints."
On Wednesday, Louis Harrigan, Customs assistant director on St. Thomas, referred questions to the Washington, D.C., Customs headquarters. No one responded to a message left with the press office there.
LIAT, which is based on Antigua, continues to operate two earlier flights a day on its Antigua to St. Kitts to Sint Maarten to St. Thomas route. However, Cherubin said the late flight was popular with island residents because it left after they finished work.
The night flight left St. Thomas for the return to Sint Maarten, St. Kitts and Antigua. Cherubin said the plane can carry 37 passengers, and "It was mostly full to capacity."
In his letter to the Customs commissioner, Turnbull wrote, "There are thousands of Virgin Islanders of Eastern Caribbean extraction who travel to and from their native countries, and we wish to maintain these linkages."
The governor said the LIAT flight is important to both the territory and the wider Caribbean. He said that providing overtime Customs and Immigration services for a small airline on the mainland may not be important, but the denial of those services to a small regional airline in the Virgin Islands has a serious impact and could pose a "financial challenge" to the airline.
Cherubin could not say how much the loss of the flight is costing LIAT.