After kicking off once-daily service between Beef Island and Miami at the start of the month, American Airlines announced last week that it will add a second daily direct flight on the route starting Dec. 5.
The addition is part of a broader expansion in the region: The company touted its “largest-ever” winter schedule to the Caribbean and Latin America in a June 14 announcement aimed at travellers who are looking to escape the cold weather.
The airline stated that it hopes to “solidify its position as the leading carrier flying non-stop between the United States and Mexico, the Caribbean and Latin America” with new routes and expanded frequencies on 21 routes.
“This coming winter, we’re looking forward to adding more service to the destinations in Latin America and the Caribbean that our customers want to visit, including popular spots like Cancun, Montego Bay and Punta Cana, as well as our newest destination, Tortola,” said Jose Freig, AA vice president of operations and commercial for Mexico, the Caribbean and Latin America.
The BVI Airports Authority welcomed the news.
“Based on the airline’s initial schedule, AA’s direct service was projected to increase passenger movements at the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport in 2023 by over 19,000 passengers,” the authority stated in a June 14 press release. “However, the latest announcement would see AA increase passenger movements by over 22,000 passengers.”
On June 1, the territory celebrated AA’s inaugural direct flight from Miami. But even before that, the airline announced that it would add an additional five flights during the month of June in addition to its daily service. The current service — which departs Miami at 10:25 a.m. and Beef Island at 2:30 p.m. — is scheduled to continue until Aug. 14 before taking a break for the rest of the slow season.
It is scheduled to resume on Nov. 16 with 12:05 p.m. daily flights out of Miami that land in the territory at 4:10 p.m., and 5:25 p.m. flights out of the territory that land at 7:25 p.m. in Miami, according to representatives from American Airlines.
The airline hasn’t announced the times of the additional December flights or said why the schedule is changing in November. Requests for comments from the BVIAA weren’t immediately successful.
Before the inaugural AA flight on June 1, leaders had attempted to secure direct flights for more than a decade in hopes of providing more convenient access to and from the territory.
There has also been vigorous debate about whether such flights were even possible without a major airport expansion.
British Caribbean Airways launched a VI-Miami service in 1986, but it closed the same year after AA began operating in the region. The transportation challenge grew bigger when American Eagle, an AA affiliate that linked the VI to Puerto Rico, ended 27 years of service in the Caribbean in 2013.
Since then, VI leaders have been trying to improve local airlift as ticket prices skyrocketed and passengers increasingly opted to fly to St. Thomas and take a ferry to enter this territory.
Ongoing efforts have also led to many dead-ends as previous administrations pursued a two-pronged approach: extending the Beef Island runway to accommodate larger aircraft; and heavily subsiding a now-defunct airline — BVI Airways — with planes small enough to operate on the existing runway but large enough to make it to the US mainland. BVI Airways never got off the ground.