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Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, December 10, 2023
HomeNewsLocal newsSt. Thomas's King Airport Opens V.I. a Crack

St. Thomas’s King Airport Opens V.I. a Crack

Passengers crowd into the Cyril E. King Airport Thursday to get the first fights out. (V.I. Port Authority photo)
Passengers crowd into the Cyril E. King Airport Thursday to get the first fights out. (V.I. Port Authority photo)

When a Delta Airlines plane touched down at the Cyril King Airport on St. Thomas Thursday, shouts and applause broke out in the battered terminal’s waiting area.

Eager to board were almost 200 people, most of them island residents who had been unable to leave the island for three weeks thanks to Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

It was the first day since Hurricane Irma hit the island that the airport was able to handle commercial flights. Both American Airlines and Delta landed 757s and both took off full, according to Monifa Morreno Braithwaite, public information officer for the V.I. Port Authority. American’s capacity is 176 seats; Delta’s is 199.

Friday a Jet Blue aircraft arrived with relief supplies and also picked up passengers, but Braithwaite was unable to say exactly how many.

A Jet Blue spokesman said service will continue through the weekend, but stressed that the airline is offering “relief flights” only, as opposed to regular service. Normally the airline flies between San Juan and St. Thomas but with the Puerto Rico airport also closed because of the storm, Jet Blue’s mercy flights are originating in Ft. Lauderdale.

American is running just one flight a day for now, operating only between Miami and St. Thomas. Delta also is bringing just one flight a day, operating between Atlanta and St. Thomas.

“This is a huge step for us in terms of recovery,” Braithwaite noted.

A minor hitch was reported by a Delta passenger on the Thursday flight. Many of those on board, including the pilot, were unaware that the passengers would have to clear Customs in Atlanta. It caused a slight delay on landing and making connections.

Braithwaite said the Port Authority had made it clear in its talks with airline officials that Customs is not offering pre-clearance at the King Airport yet. David Mapp, the executive director, had also made a public announcement on the radio, but evidently the word didn’t trickle down to everyone concerned.

She said she doesn’t know how long it will be before Customs again operates at the airport.

“It’s a telecommunications issue that they’re having,” she said. “I don’t have details.”

But she had more good news: Cape Air is expected to begin flights between St. Thomas and St. Croix on Saturday. And the tentative reopening date for the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix is Oct. 5.

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  1. Chaos in Miami is what we experienced in Friday’s American Airline flight to Miami. We were informed by the St Thomas American Station manager that we would be required to be processed by U.S. Customs and then had to retrieve our luggage and recheck our bags in Miami. When we arrived in Miami we were led to US Customs and processed, proceed to get our luggage at belt 4, about 10 pieces of luggage came out and the belt stopped. We waited and waited over an hour. No one from American Airlines was available to help the hundred plus passengers waiting for the luggage stressing to make connections. I personally called American Customer service for help, after spending :30 on hold waiting to speak to some one, was out on hold again, finally angry and frustrated by the lack of assistance and information from American we left without our luggage. When we finally walked out of the baggage claim area and an American Airlines agent guides us to another line for customer services so we could get our boarding passes. :20 minutes in another line to get serviced to be told to contact baggage services at our final destination. Then another line for another TSA check. The lack of communication between American Airlines and it’s employees, Miami ground crew and passengers was a upsetting and frustrating flight experience.
    American Airlines clearly need to provide some relief and restitution for failing to follow through with customer services and baggage services to all of the passengers on Fridays flight out from St. Thomas to Miami.