Blue Sky Thinking
Business Traveller UK|December 2019 - January 2020
New routes, more flights, upgraded fleets and airports – is air travel in the Caribbean finally joining the 21st century?
Nigel Tisdall

Oh, I do like an airport with chickens. They are clucking around my feet in the bungalow-sized terminal at Barbuda Codrington airport, gateway to Antigua’s little-visited but quite lovely sister isle, Barbuda. Blessed with the delightful airport code BBQ, it offers all of the crowd-free charm and friendliness you’d expect from a Caribbean backwater tickled by just a few flights a day. If only all flying was as laid-back as this...

Unfortunately, for romantics like me, such sleepy little airports are in decline. From the Bahamas to Tobago, exciting developments are in the air as carriers recognise the potential of the Caribbean as a destination for business, tourism and family visits. As the peak holiday season kicks off about now in a flurry of lurid welcome cocktails and fancy towel arrangements rearing up from petal-strewn beds, many travellers will arrive on newly launched routes.

Most are from North America, for as winter blows in who can resist the chance to wave goodbye to icy Minneapolis in favour of heat-drenched Nassau, with thanks to Sun Country Airlines? Or hop on a United flight from grey New Jersey to the wildly colourful streets of Curaçao?

On and on the list of fresh connections goes, with American Airlines at the head of the charge. “We’re proud to be the leading carrier here with more than 1,000 weekly flights to 38 destinations,” says Alfredo Gonzalez, managing director of its Caribbean operations. He says the airline has continued to grow its footprint in the region by adding new destinations and increasing frequency, and the proof is right there on the sun beds and in family homes – trips to see friends and relatives is a big part of this traffic. In summer 2019,

American added six routes to the islands from US cities. Another four follow in December 2019, including from Dallas and Chicago to the US Virgin Islands, where flagship hotels such as the Ritz-Carlton St Thomas have reopened after the ravages of Hurricane Irma in 2017.

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