LIAT to Resume Service to the U.S. Virgin Islands
For a region of small islands located in relatively close proximity to each other, there is no end of challenges in getting from one to the next.
Residents of the US Virgin Islands (USVI) would feel the brunt of this in early 2017 when regional airline LIAT announced it would be discontinuing its Antigua to St Croix and St Thomas routes in March and June of that year respectively.
For LIAT, the routes were axed following a route analysis which highlighted several issues with the service to those islands.
Speaking to the media during a press trip coordinated by the US Virgin Islands Department of Tourism in partnership with LIAT, Corporate Communications Manager for the airline Shavar Maloney indicated that port charge increases, which were due to come on stream, as well as challenges in routing through St Maarten were some of the factors that contributed to the decision to pull out.
The announcement, Lieutenant Governor Osbert Potter said, came as a blow to the citizens and residents of the USVI, many of whom, he said, are from other islands in the Caribbean.
Potter spoke of the time-consuming and costly length that US Virgin Islanders then had to resort to in order to visit neighboring islands, having to fly to Tortola or Miami first to catch connecting flights onwards.
The Lieutenant Governor, who is up for reelection on November 6, lead the charge in negotiations with the regional carrier, in an effort to reestablish the discontinued routes to his islands.
Potter flew to Antigua to meet with LIAT management to begin discussing the issues with the route and what he could do to assist.
Following the meetings, Potter said he connected LIAT with the USVI’s Port Authority and Homeland Security to address issues he felt were never something that was insurmountable. His efforts were not in vain. LIAT announced in March 2018 that it would be resuming its route to St Thomas.
There are no immediate plans to relaunch the Antigua to St Croix route, but Maloney says assessments are constantly being made to determine the viability of returning to previously discontinued routes.
The service to St Thomas resumed on July 2, 2018, and so far, the response has been positive. Maloney says LIAT is committed to working with the US Virgin Islands Department of Tourism on the route and how it is performing.
Commissioner of Tourism of the US Virgin Islands, Beverly Nicholson-Doty told Loop that the return of LIAT to its shores was of great importance to the islands’ tourism industry.
The Commissioner estimates that the US Virgin Islands receive around 30,000 to 40,000 regional visitors a year. She identified Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, St Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and St Lucia as nations with strong ties to the USVI.
Source: Loop (Trinidad & Tobago)