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New airline entering Eastern Caribbean routes

By John Collins (1)

Caribbean Sun Airlines commencing service in December from San Juan to Tortola, St. Kitts, Nevis, and Antigua.

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua – Caribbean Sun Airlines (Sun), which is based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is commencing service to several islands in the Eastern Caribbean next month, a spokesperson for the Federal Aviation administration confirmed.

Sun describes itself as the sister company of Antigua-based Caribbean Star Airlines (Star), headed by Texas banker Allen Stanford who also has a bank in Antigua. According to reports the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) awarded Sun “a certificate of public convenience and necessity” covering services from San Juan to Beef Island (British Virgin Islands), St. Maarten, St. Kitts & Nevis and Antigua.

Sun, with colors similar to these of Star, will be using the same Bombardier Dash-8 aircraft utilized by Star. Under the DOT ruling Sun is reportedly authorized to upgrade its equipment to 60-seater regional jets.

Star has been rumored to be planning entry into the Luis Mu#oz Marin International Airport (LMM) for several months but was precluded from doing so because airports in the member states of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) are in the FAA’s Category 2. Aircraft based in countries in that classification, including Antigua, can not fly to the U.S. or its territories.

The new development is expected to further complicate an already competitive situation in the sub-region. LIAT, also based in Antigua, has accused Star of “predatory” pricing in the routes they both serve, a charge which Star denies. The small Nevis-based Nevis Express suspended its service to San Juan faced with increased competition from LIAT. Nevis Express had entered into a code-share arrangement with US Airways.

The proliferation of more flights in the region comes at a time when it is attempting to recover from the fallout of 9/11 marked by reduced passenger loads. The new flights will mean more competition for San Juan-based American Eagle as it prepares to operate separately from AMR, the parent company of American Airlines. It expects to carry 1.9 million passengers this year and represents formidable challenger for all new comers.

Banker Stanford is reportedly an investor in Sun but he could not be reached for confirmation.

"Caribbean aviation in flux right now"

“Aviation in the Caribbean is in quite a state of flux right now,” said Bobby Booth of Miami’s Aviation Management Services. He has been watching the scenario unfold in the region and issuing warnings and advice for years which has gone unheeded. “Things are going to be difficult until external factors improve. That hinges on the recovery of the U.S. economy and continued stability. The Caribbean is close to the U.S. and Americans like a quick getaway right next door. Deeper are the internal problems regionally which will still have to be addressed.

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1) Other articles by the well known Caribbean author John Collins can be read at:
www.pymesdominicanas.com

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November 30, 2002

 

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