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Caribbean News Up in the AirMarch 3, 2008 By: Joe Pike Travel Agent
THE SKY SEEMS TO BE DOMINATING MUCH OF THE CARIBBEAN NEWS AS OF LATE. Top billing for the hottest airline news was split between the unexpected plans for the suspension of Air Jamaica's St. Lucia flights, as well as the possible addition of Spirit Airlines flights out of Long Island, New York.
Spirit Lifts Out of Long Island
Travel Agent confirmed recent reports that Spirit Airlines (www.spiritair.com) is looking to add flights out of Long Island's MacArthur Airport. At the time of publication, Spirit was still involved in talks with an announcement expected soon, around the end of February to be exact.
According to a representative of Spirit, the airline company says reports are not speculation and that Spirit has in fact engaged in discussions with the Town of Islip with plans to add flights to the Caribbean. Specifically, Spirit is contemplating flights to San Juan, Puerto Rico.
"Spirit looks at a lot of places when planning routes," the source told Travel Agent. "We're studying Islip just like we study many places."
Impact for Travelers Out of New York
If this does in fact go through as expected, agents can expect even more business to the Caribbean out of the already lucrative New York market.
"You have no idea how many clients I have going to the Caribbean [from Long Island] who hate making that drive to either LaGuardia [Airport] or JFK [John F. Kennedy International Airport]," says Bob Kleppick of Global Pathfinders Travel in Spring, TX. "With these flights, it would appear as though a strong market like New York just got even stronger."
"I feel very strongly that any business that can contribute to the ease of getting our clients in the air is a positive move," says Penny Sheldon of Penny Sheldon Travel, which is in Boise, ID and specializes in the Caribbean. "With the ability to access flights in less time, people are enticed to take advantage of quick getaways. Business brings business. Using airports in non-major gateways eases the congestion on the infrastructure as well."
But Sheldon also argues that there will be some negative impact as well.
"The only problem I have with Spirit is the lack of protection for my clients.?If a flight is canceled they don't protect them on another airline. With a flight departing from Long Island—my clients' getaway would be lost or cut severely short."
St. Lucia Loses Air Lift
While San Juan could be gaining flights, St. Lucia's fleet will be decreasing by April.
That's when Air Jamaica (www.airjamaica.com) is expected to suspend its service to St. Lucia due to the company's corporate restructuring, according to recently published reports.
The service, which was three times a week, will be suspended because restructuring plans called for "streamlining and route rationalization," the report states. St. Lucia Senator Allan Chastanet, minister of tourism, noted that recently launched and planned nonstop services from the U.S. would help fill Air Jamaica's void for St. Lucia's economy. St. Lucia will also benefit from some lucrative, upscale property openings coming up in the near future, which should ease some of its economic pain from air traffic loss.
Other Major Airlines Add Nonstop service to Islands
In other Caribbean airline news, JetBlue Airways (www.jetblue.com) added service January 17 from JFK to St. Maarten, which is also convenient for clients looking to island-hop to Anguilla, since ferry service to and from St. Maarten is available. It is a daily, year-round flight leaving JFK at 9:45 a.m. and departing St. Maarten at 3:45 p.m. JetBlue is also slated to add an additional nonstop flight from Orlando to Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, starting May 1. The new, second daily flight will depart Orlando at 8 a.m. and arrive in Aguadilla at 10:45 a.m. The return flight from Aguadilla will be at 11:25 a.m., arriving in Florida at 2:10 p.m.
American Airlines' (www.aa.com) most recent additions to the region include nonstop flights from Fort Lauderdale, FL, to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Samana, also in the Dominican Republic. These flights were launched in December.