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USVI raises airport charge

By John Collins (1)

Both landing and passenger fees increased by V.I. Ports Authority.

Faced with a deficit expected to top $5 million by the end of its fiscal year Sept. 30, the U.S. Virgin Islands Ports Authority (PA) decided to not only trim expenses but also raise the  fees for aircraft landings and per-passenger fees by 35% effective immediately.

The increase will raise landing fees for aircraft from $2.50 to $3.38 per every 1,000 pounds and the per-passenger fee will go from $2.59 to $3.50 for domestic flights and from $8.15 per passenger to $11 for foreign flights.

The PA estimates that the higher fees will result in $3.5 million in added revenues which, coupled with cuts in spending for capital projects, should result in enough savings to balance the operating budgets for the airports in St. Croix and St. Thomas.

The announced increases brought an immediate negative reaction from the airlines serving the territory but PA Executive Director Gordon Finch said the fee increases are obligatory whenever the budget of the PA goes into deficit.

One airline executive said the aviation industry “is still reeling from the aftershocks of 9/11” and expressed “surprise  that the PA was raising the fees when the airlines are experiencing declining revenues and fewer passengers.”

A spokesperson for Cape Air, which operates in the USVI as well as in Puerto Rico and the northeastern U.S., said that the fees which the airlines pays in St. Thomas “are twice as high as those we pay in New England including at Boston.”

The budget of the PA is$74.5 million annually and the bulk of its revenues from its airport operations overhead ($15.3 million) come from the fees.

Finch said a rise in fees at the territory’s marine terminals, which mainly serve the cruise trade, are not contemplated because their operating costs are in balance.

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September 02, 2002


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