By Carlena Knight
For the first time in more than 30 years, Antigua and Barbuda welcomed passengers who travelled on a British Airways flight from London’s Heathrow Airport.
The airline has been offering flights to the twin island through Gatwick for some time, but yesterday marked the first time in over a decade that BA passengers have had the luxury of having both international airports offering flights to Antigua and Barbuda.
To mark the momentous occasion, flight BA151 was welcomed with a water cannon salute at the VC Bird International Airport and warm greetings from tourism officials.
One such was Tourism Authority CEO Colin James, who said that this flight signals the opening up of the European market to the twin island nation.
“What it does for us is that it allows us to attract a really premier passenger. London Heathrow Airport is one of the largest, if not the largest and busiest airport in the world, and so the connectivity from other major metropolitan cities is like no other and so right away if you have passengers, let’s say, coming from Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Rome, they can connect same day to this Heathrow flight and then connect to Antigua same day.
“That opens us back up to the European market in a meaningful way. We haven’t recovered our Italian and German flights as yet, so this is the substitute for that and this means good business for the destination,” James said.
With the resumption of flights from Heathrow, this means that the twin island nation will see nine flights from BA coming each week.
James also spoke on the impact that will have on the country.
“Nine flights a week to Antigua means that Antigua right now is British Airways’ largest Caribbean market. There are more flights coming into Antigua than Barbados, so that tells you something about the strong demand for the destination, that’s one and two, the confidence that they put in us that if they think they weren’t going to get a good return they wouldn’t be encouraged to put these additional flights on so we are really excited about all of this and what it means particularly for us as our tourism sector is rebounding slowly,” he added.
A total of 125 passengers arrived on the inaugural flight.