Opinion: Five New Caribbean Flights With the Most Impact

It's been a busy news year in the sky for the Caribbean with one island getting direct service from New York for the first time while other islands continue to expand service to meet demand. 

Travel Agent breaks down five new flights that we expect to have major influences on several Caribbean islands in 2015 and beyond.

United Expands Service From Houston to The Bahamas

the bahamasClients from the Houston area can now enjoy more access to the beaches Nassau Paradise Island, The Bahamas, with increased air service from United Airlines.

Additional nonstop flights from Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) to Nassau’s Lynden Pindling International Airport (NAS). SkyWest Airlines will operate the United Express flights using Canadair CRJ700 regional jet aircraft with 70 seats; six in United First and 64 in United Economy, including 16 Economy Plus extra-legroom seats. 

As of December 3, United Express flight 6381 will depart Houston at 9:30 a.m., arriving in Nassau at 1:30 p.m. every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. The return flight will operate on these same days via flight 6388 departing Nassau at 2:25 p.m., arriving to Houston at 4:45 p.m. Daily service will operate during peak periods from March 5 to May 5 and from June 4 to August 17, with service reduced to Saturday only between September 19 and October 23 and suspended from Aug. 19 to Sept. 18.

The Impact

In our opinion, The Bahamas is beefing up flights to some of its most popular destinations in order to meet the demand for the highly-anticipated Baha Mar resort development project, which is expected to essentially create a new destination within The Bahamas. The expanded service from Houston could be just the tip of the iceberg as far as expanded and new service to The Bahamas goes. Baha Mar is expected to have a grand opening celebration planned for late spring of 2015. The grand opening was originally planned for the end of 2014. Visit www.NassauParadiseIsland.com.

JetBlue Becomes First Airline to Offer Non-Stop Flights From New York to Curacao 

curacaoJetBlue Airways has announced its new non-stop service from New York to Curacao. Beginning December 2, JetBlue will become the only airline to offer non-stop flights from New York to Curacao.  

“We have been working closely with the team at JetBlue to bring this flight to the island and are thrilled it has come to fruition and we’re able to announce it today,” said Stanley Palm, Curaçao’s minister of economic development, in a written release.

Flights will operate twice weekly, on Tuesdays and Saturdays between New York’s John F. Kennedy  International Airport and Curacao’s International Airport. Flight service will depart New York at 9 a.m. on Tuesdays and Saturdays and arrive on island at 2:30 p.m. Return flights will depart Curacao at 3:30 p.m. and arrive at 7:14 p.m. 

The Impact

Curacao continues to thrive as one of the region's most diverse and culturally-rich islands. The destination has been building buzz within the industry for the last few years, but is really ready to take off now with its first direct service from New York. Where we expect Curacao to benefit the most is within the gay and lesbian markets. The island is incredibly gay and lesbian friendly. There are not a lot of Caribbean islands that are welcoming to the gay and lesbian community. Some are flat out against gay and lesbians travelers while others simply tolerate the market, but don't necessarily welcome it. Curacao not only tolerates the gay and lesbian client, they welcome that client with open arms. And New York is full of gay and lesbian travelers looking to go somewhere warm without being harassed. Visit www.curacao.com or www.jetblue.com

Barbados, Delta Announce New Nonstop Flights From New York, Atlanta

Earlier this year, Travel Agent told you that the Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA) was in serious discussions to add more Delta flights to the Caribbean island and apparently they weren't lying.

The BTA and Delta announced in June a collaboration on new nonstop service this winter to Barbados from both New York and Atlanta. 

The new flights begin December 4. They are twice weekly between Grantley Adams International Airport in Bridgetown and both New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport and Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, where connections to cities across the United States are available. The New York flights represent Delta first ever nonstop flight from the Big Apple to Barbados.

Flights will operate Thursdays and Saturdays, and two flights will start simultaneously, one from New York into Barbados and then onto Atlanta; and then a second one originating in Atlanta, traveling to Barbados and on to New York.

The two Boeing 737 aircrafts have a seating capacity of 160, consisting of 16 business class seats, 18 economy comfort seats and 126 economy seats on each flight. The 737 offers clients amenities including complimentary personal television programming with 18 free channels from DISH Network, comfortable leather seats and up to four more inches of legroom with Economy Comfort.

The Impact

Travel Agent was able to get the scoop on the new Delta flights to Barbados through a sit-down interview we recently did with Richard Sealy, tourism minister of Barbados. Sealy told us the Barbados Tourism Authority was in serious discussions to add more Delta and JetBlue flights to the country. Now that the Delta plans have come to fruition, one can only imagine JetBlue isn't too far behind. Sealy told us both Boston and Fort Lauderdale are potential cities where JetBlue could add flights to Barbados from. 

In our opinion, the new flights are a direct result of the new Sandals Barbados and Beaches Barbados. Following a brief closure to undertake a wide-ranging enhancement program, Sandals Barbados will reopen its doors on January 28, 2015. Construction on Beaches Barbados is expected to begin in April. Visit www.visitbarbados.org and www.delta.com.

Cuba Travel Services Launches New Flights From New York to Havana, Cuba

Cuba Travel Services, an authorized carrier service provider with offices in California and Florida, will now be offering direct flights from New York's John F. Kennedy Airport to Havana, Cuba.cuba

Cuba Travel Services arranges flights operated by American Airlines and Sun Country Airlines to popular destinations including Havana, Cienfuegos, Camaguey, Santa Clara, Holguin and Santiago de Cuba, all from New York's JFK Airport.

The Impact

Cuba Travel Services believes expanding its flight network will provide licensed travelers more options at a substantial savings. Currently, authorized passengers from the New Jersey/New York areas experience connection delays, additional baggage fees and extra domestic ticket costs when connecting to Cuba through Miami, Fort Lauderdale or Tampa.

Although Cuba Travel Services' initial request to operate flights to Havana from Newark Liberty International Airport was denied by local airport authorities, the JFK airport is easily accessible from New Jersey. This new market features one of the largest Cuban American populations in the United States, second only to Florida. Visit www.cubatravelservices.com.

Delta Set to Launch Direct Flights From New York to St. Lucia

st. luciaThe Saint Lucia Tourist Board recently announced Delta will add nonstop service from New York’s JFK International Airport to St. Lucia’s Hewanorra International Airport (UVF). 

Commencing December 20, the weekly service will operate every Saturday throughout the year. The flight marks an expansion in service by Delta to UVF; the airline currently operates nonstop flights from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

“Delta customers will have the ability to conveniently connect from a variety of feeder markets throughout the Northeast and Canada,” said Louis Lewis, director of tourism for the Saint Lucia Tourist Board, in a written release. “We look forward to continued work with the carrier to increase the number of arrivals at Hewanorra International Airport.”

Operated using a Boeing 737-800 with capacity for 160 seats, the flight will depart JFK at 8:30 a.m., arriving at UVF at 2:10 p.m. Return flights will depart Saint Lucia at 3:15 p.m., arriving at JFK at 7:07 p.m. 

The Impact

Delta appears to be making a huge step in solidifying flights to some of the most popular Caribbean destinations. Quite simply, St. Lucia really needed additional service from the New York/New Jersey market, which is the island's bread and butter. Visit www.delta.com and www.stlucianow.com.

Keep visiting www.travelagentcentral.com for all your latest Caribbean news.