Esteemed members of the media. Ladies and Gentlemen. Welcome, or as our new friends from Seaborne might say, Buenvenidos, to VC Bird International airport to mark this special occasion.
Today is a wonderful day. Christmas has come early, as we are lucky to welcome our Caribbean brothers and sisters from Puerto Rico, Seaborne Airlines, to our new, wonderful Sir Vere Cornwall Bird International airport with regularly scheduled service from San Juan International Airport that will operate 4 times a week, year-round.
This new service is incredibly exciting for Antigua and Barbuda and our new International airport as it continues to strengthen our position as the major gateway in the Eastern Caribbean.
Airlift is integral, not only to the success of our tourism industry, but to our investment and growth strategy as a nation. Increasing our annual passenger traffic exponentially year over year is a critical part of this. And for us, as a nation, it is integral that our international airport truly is ‘international’ offering a network that truly reflects that word, so adding San Juan, Puerto Rico in to this portfolio is an incredibly important achievement.
Seaborne Airlines, as a well respected carrier in the Caribbean – having been operating for over 23 years and carrying over 3 million passengers safely – bring with them not just their own portfolio that includes 17 airports and 1,500 monthly flights, but they are opening a critical route from San Juan. Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, handled just over 8.6 million passengers last year, a 3.1% increase from the previous year. Opening up more air traffic to this major hub in the Caribbean is sure to be beneficial for both Antigua and Barbuda as well as Seaborne.
Seaborne Airlines is the perfect partner for us to increase our access to the greater North American market beyond our scheduled flights as they are code-share partners with both JetBlue and American Airlines, as well as interline partners with United and Delta.
In simple terms ladies and gentlemen it is another option for added convenience in getting visitors to Antigua and Barbuda same day from the many direct flights served from major US cities into Puerto Rico.
This is ideal as JetBlue, our newest American airline partners, are the largest operators out of San Juan airport and American Airlines is the largest airline in the world. Interline agreements with United and Delta with the other largest American carriers is also of great benefit as tickets can still be purchased on ‘one-ticket.’
So it is an understatement to say Seaborne’s service will help us grab the catchment of destinations not served directly in to Antigua – and with the codeshares and interline agreements – easily so. Passengers will be able to fly on ‘one-ticket’ so will be able to check-in and check their baggage through to their final destination. An added bonus for those returning to the US and wanting to avoid the long customs lines found at many of the major US airports is that passengers will clear customs in San Juan and arrive at their final destination as domestic passengers.
We also expect these flights to be warmly received by both the people of Antigua and Barbuda as it opens new options for their own travel, for business and leisure. Research suggests people often are keen to travel throughout the Caribbean when planning their holidays, so this flight also opens up easy travel between Puerto Rico and Antigua and Barbuda. For an inexpensive $128 each way, who wouldn’t want to sample each of our destinations on their dream holiday itinerary? The answer to that question is: no one. So this flight is beneficial for us much further beyond the North American market, but Latin America and Europe as well.
Just a few short months ago we had the absolute honor and pleasure of opening our new terminal, here, at Sir Vere Cornwall Bird International airport. We are proud to be able to say that we are the newest and most modern airport in the Caribbean, I can wholeheartedly and emphatically say, we are proud of the vast portfolio of services, technology and amenities we offer here at VC Bird that cannot be found throughout the region. This of course includes free WiFi, the latest in check-in technology at the kiosks, expedited customs and immigration processes for both arrival and departure, a full range of dining and shopping options including multiple duty-free stores and air-conditioning. We are completely disabled friendly offering a smoother and more dignified experience for those that need support in their mobility.
I am also very proud to say we are one now of the “greenest” airports in the world with most of the energy for this facility being supplied by solar power.
This new terminal is imperative for us to provide a product and service that both met the expectations of our hundreds of thousands of visitors each year as well as our very important airline partners such as Seaborne Airlines, whose arrival today is an emphatic vote of confidence in this facility and in the growth prospect for our destination.
Welcoming Seaborne to our VC Bird International network and family is an incredible pleasure and honor. Working closely together, I am confident this is the beginning of a long and successful partnership. Hopefully, in the near future we’ll be able to welcome their flights on a daily basis
Thank you for joining us today and warmest welcome to our new friends and partners.
Hon. Robin Yearwood Minister of Public Utilities, Civil Aviation & Transportation,
Director of Business Development & Marketing for Seaborne Airlines: Mr. Hector Montanez
Chairman of The Tourism Authority, Mr. Rohan Hector
CEO of The Tourism Authority, Mr. Colin James
Chairman of The Airport Authority, Mr. Rolston Potter
CEO of VC Bird Airport, Mr. Stanley E. Smith
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism Mrs. Paula Frederick-Hunte
Permanent Secretary of Civil Aviation Mr. Edson Joseph
Tourism Consultant Ms. Shirlene Nibbs
Other Seaborne Airlines and Tourism Officials