After years clouded by diminished service and high seat prices, the Caribbean airlift forecast calls for sunnier skies.
Much of the bad weather arose because the islands have relied so heavily on service from a single carrier, American Airlines. "Having all our eggs in one basket has always been a problem for the Caribbean," explains John Bell, director general, CEO, of the Caribbean Hotel Association.
Recently, however, service has broadened, led by an increase in flights by Caribbean-based Air Jamaica, as well as BWIA and LIAT. Air Jamaica is now offering more than 340 flights per week from across the United States, including Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Phoenix. "We are spreading our market access deeper into the heartland of America," notes Bell. At the same time, broader access across the Caribbean is being achieved through expanded regional service by carriers such as the newly launched EC Xpress, a subsidiary of Air Jamaica.
"When it comes right down to it, the North American carriers will do what is right for their stockholders, and that may not be good for the Caribbean," Bell says. "They may move their planes to another area to meet demand, and you can't argue with that. The Caribbean airlines have no place else to fly but the Caribbean, so the stronger they get, the better."
The increase in Caribbean-based airline service has been answered by corresponding expansion by U.S.-based carriers, including Delta, USAirways, TWA, Northwest, United, and American. "Several air carriers are increasing flights to the Caribbean this fall and have either introduced new services or added to their existing schedules this past year," says Michael Youngman, director of marketing, Caribbean Tourism Organization. "These significant developments reflect a renewed interest in the region, and we expect that this trend will continue over the next year."