Barbados has been hugely successful in attracting new airlift and all our major markets have largely benefited, most notably the United States.
The new German Wings upcoming three flights each week from Frankfurt hopefully will dramatically increase our Continental European visitors. Not just from Germany, but from all the bordering countries that enjoy seamless rail connections to the adjacent Frankfurt Airport station.
While most ‘experts’ agree that the largest most accessible market for us in North America is the United States north eastern seaboard, there remains untapped opportunities in other parts of the country. Perhaps this is why St. Lucia has secured a direct non-stop seasonal American Airlines weekly service from Chicago commencing December. United Airlines has already serviced this route and some confusion exists whether or not they will re-instate or continue, so I contacted them and this was the reply,
While this is one of our seasonal routes, we don’t have any further details regarding that particular route at this time. We recommend keeping an eye on our website for updates. An announcement will be made, if that route comes back.
With a flight time of just 5 hours and 30 minutes, eliminating the need to endure lengthy time-wasting connections, it provides an incredible opportunity for severe winter weather inhabitants to reach the southern Caribbean in a single hassle-free flight. Clearly, both the airline and St. Lucia want this new route to work, as at the time of writing this column, seats were even available using as low as 30,000 AAdvantage miles and US$120 in taxes, for a return economy ticket, even on the inaugural flight, which falls over the Christmas holiday period. Full revenue tickets during the peak period start at US$795 return including all taxes, which is competitively priced when you consider the distance and the absence of intermediate secondary flights.
When you start comparing seat availability and cost to Barbados from New York, the Chicago service looks even more appealing.
JetBlue offers a similar flight time from JFK to Barbados, but with the loss of a direct American flight from JFK, it now requires a minimum of 7 hours and 6 minutes journey duration, connecting through a second hub.
Staying with airlines, many would have read that Thomas Cook Airlines are up-for-sale, with several companies expressing an interest, including Virgin Atlantic and the Lufthansa Group, who also own Condor Airlines. Sir Richard Branson, who is now a minority shareholder in Virgin Atlantic Airways, has also intimated some involvement with a restructured LIAT according to media reporting.
Could this be a sustainable solution?
LIAT to feed passengers onto Virgin transatlantic flights from the Caribbean destined for the United Kingdom.
While this currently happens, is there a more structured way, which could result in the long term survival of LIAT and enhanced connectivity both with the region and beyond?
An increase in triangle routes would also produce more availability within the Caribbean, where seats on the in-between sectors could be sold at affordable prices. An example would be Gatwick-Antigua-Barbados or reverse.