March 17, 2003 – An American Airlines official said Monday that as of May 1, the carrier's supplemental service provider, American Eagle, will discontinue all flights between St. Croix and St. Thomas.
Minette Velez, American spokeswoman in San Juan, said the increased landing and passenger fees imposed by the V.I. Port Authority effective Feb. 1 were a factor in the decision. So, too, she said, was the airline's ongoing review of its overall operations due to financial difficulties.
The Port Authority raised its fees 25 percent on Feb. 1.
"It's unfortunate, but given the circumstances with our finances and the dramatic increase in landing fees at the V.I. airports, we have no choice but to cut out the flights between the two islands," Velez told WVWI Radio on Monday.
American Eagle currently has four flights between St. Croix and St. Thomas Monday through Friday and two on Saturday and Sunday.
Service out of San Juan to both airports is not affected by the decision. And it will still be possible to fly from St. Thomas to St. Croix or vice versa by going through San Juan.
The announcement was the second by American Airlines in a week to impact on St. Croix. Last week, the carrier announced that effective April 15 it will close down ground operations altogether at Henry E. Rohlsen Airport, laying off 10 employees and contracting out the servicing of its current daily flight from Miami to American Eagle.
Last fall, American announced plans to sell its American Eagle operations out of San Juan and Miami to San Juan hotelier Joaquin Bolivar, who would operate the routes under a new name, the American Connection. Velez had said in announcing the move in November that the sale was expected to be finalized near the end of this month.
However, according to an industry publication, the sale has been pushed back to the fourth quarter of 2003, and some observers are questioning whether it will take place at all.
The affected American Eagle routes are currently operated by Executive Airlines, which was founded in 1985 by Bolivar, who bought out the old Prinair routes when that Puerto Rican company went bankrupt. In 1986, Executive Airlines became an American Eagle franchise, Velez said, and in 1989, Bolivar sold Executive Airlines to AMR Corp., the parent company of American Airlines.
Velez said in November that AMR was being forced to sell Executive Airlines in order to comply with its union contract with the Allied Pilots Association, which prevents the airline from adding flights that fly under the American Airlines code. (See "American Eagle sale vital to airline's growth".)
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