Thursday, April 16, 2009

New cheap flights to St. Thomas and St. Croix

After slashing the number of flights from Puerto Rico to St. Thomas and St. Croix to three a day last September, on May 1 American Eagle will add four more daily flights to each island. The flights will run through Labor Day.
"The increased airlift means the potential for more visitors," said Tourism Department Communications Director Allegra Kean-Moorehead on Wednesday.
The department's Sizzling Sampler summer promotion should benefit by making it easier for visitors to buy flight and hotel packages, she said.
"It's great timing," Kean-Moorhead said.
The promotion provides $300 off a package vacation, plus the fourth night free. Additionally, visitors receive a $50 dining coupon and a $50 attraction coupon.
American Eagle is adding 109 flights a week from San Juan to eight Caribbean destinations, the result of a lobbying effort by the Puerto Rico Tourism Co., which markets Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico is seeking to increase health, entertainment and retail tourism to the island, said American Airlines' spokesman in San Juan, Minette Velez. The increased airlift to St. Thomas and St. Croix is a plus.
Other islands with increased flights include Tortola, St. Maarten, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Grenada and Trinidad.
"Everybody wins," Velez said.
The additional flights should help get people to St. Thomas and St. John earlier and allow them to stay later in the day.
"I saw people coming in at ridiculous hours," said Carringtons Inn owner Claudia Carrington, speaking about when St. Croix had only three flights a day from San Juan.
Visitors arrived on St. Croix at 11:30 p.m. on the last flight from San Juan, but it was 1 a.m. by the time they got to their hotel, Carrington said. In one instance, she said, an 89-year-old guest was on a flight that arrived late in San Juan. This caused him to miss his connecting flight to St. Croix and forced him to wait more than four hours at the San Juan airport for the next flight.
To make the earliest flight out of St. Croix at 6:30 a.m., Carrington said, guests had to depart her bed and breakfast very early in the morning. This caused them to miss the home-cooked breakfast that is one of the inn's signature amenities.
"But we set them up to go with bagels, yogurt and juice," Carrington said.
One travel-industry worker on St. John, who did not want to be identified, pointed out that with American Airlines ending its seasonal non-stop service to St. Thomas from Boston April 30, the additional American Eagle flights will be a boon. With no non-stop service to St. Thomas, Boston passengers will have to connect through San Juan or Miami.