American Airlines and the other carriers serving the Virgin Islands got some good news from the Port Authority last summer when, effective Oct. 1, it rolled back the 25 percent increase in landing and passenger fees imposed on Feb. 1. (See "VIPA rescinds landing, passenger fee increases".) And this week, the territory got some good news from American.
Last spring, American turned its V.I. ground operations over to American Eagle. Now, still the territory's largest air carrier, American, along with American Eagle, will be bringing a weekly total of 15,046 seats into the territory beginning Dec. 15.
St. Thomas will get 11,042 seats, and St. Croix 4,004. However, St. Croix will get an additional flight each week from San Juan, according to a Tourism Department release dated Oct. 30.
The airline has added a second daily direct flight out of New York to St. Thomas operating five days a week; there will be no flights Tuesday or Wednesday. Direct flights from Boston to St. Thomas also will operate five days weekly, with Monday and Wednesday quiet. This will bring the weekly number of seats to 2,112 from New York and 880 from Boston.
American will add another direct daily flight from Miami to St. Thomas, making two flights a day for a total of 2,464 seats weekly. All flights will be aboard 176-seat Boeing 757 aircraft.
A daily Boeing 757 flight will go from San Juan to St. Thomas. American Eagle will continue to operate 10 flights a day on that route.
Serving St. Croix, American will operate a daily flight using a 142-seat Boeing 737-800 aircraft, for a weekly total of 994 seats. American Eagle will operate seven daily flights from San Juan to St. Croix, adding up to 3,010 seats.
After the Port Authority raised its landing and passenger fees in February, there was little good news from American — or any of the other airlines. On Wednesday; the www.amrcorp.com Web site of AMR, the parent company of American Airlines, showed a $398 round-trip fare available from Chicago to St. Thomas this winter; however the airline's own www.aa.com Web site listed a $496.80 fare for the same route. The Tourism Department release made no mention of the flight, which operates through San Juan.
American announced on April 9 that it would terminate its ground operations at Cyril E. King Airport effective April 26 and contract customer and maintenance services for its daily flights between St. Thomas and New York, Miami and San Juan out to American Eagle. An airline executive cited the Feb. 1 increase in V.I. airport landing and passenger fees as a major factor in the decision.
The news came in the wake of announcements in March that the carrier would close its ground operations on St. Croix as of April 15 and discontinue American Eagle service between St. Croix and St. Thomas on May 1. On St. Croix, too, American Eagle took over customer and ground handling services.
Repeated calls to Tourism Commissioner Pamela Richards and to the Tourism Department on both St. Thomas and St. Croix went unreturned.
Another airline, Caribbean Sun, reportedly plans to begin serving the territory this winter. However, no details could be obtained from the Tourism Department.
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