By Shermain Bique-Charles
A number of additional direct flights to Antigua and Barbuda have been secured during talks with top airline industry officials at the Routes Americas conference that ended in San Antonio, Texas, yesterday.
Tourism Minister Charles Fernandez led a delegation to the popular annual event, to include Tourism Authority CEO Colin James, plus Dean Fenton and Norrell Joseph from the New York office.
Fernandez kept the gist of the negotiations close to his chest but he confirmed that Caribbean Airlines and another international carrier have both promised to lay on extra flights to the twin island state.
“We have some very good feedback internationally and also regionally. We had a very good meeting with Caribbean Airlines and another major airline,” Fernandez said, adding, “we will be making an announcement in a very short time”.
Carriers apparently expressed concerns about inter-regional taxes, the level of Covid vaccination in Antigua and Barbuda, and the removal of mandatory testing for vaccinated people.
But Fernandez said, “People are very interested in coming back to the Caribbean, bearing in mind that there are a lot of challenges faced by the airlines in terms of limited aircraft and shortage of crew. They have to handpick their destinations and this is why we have to reassure them.”
Some of the other issues discussed included the situation in Ukraine which Fernandez said could have an effect on oil prices, eventually affecting the cost of tickets.
The conference also facilitated collaboration between airlines, airports, tourism authorities and other key aviation partners whose conversations and negotiations were geared at expediting the region’s recovery and fuel future air service growth.
The 15th edition of the event also welcomed industry heavyweights from over 70 leading airlines.
Other topics in San Antonio included the importance of cargo, and an increased need for closer collaboration between tourism and aviation.
Routes Americas is described as the only dedicated air service development event that unites airline decision makers across the entire Americas.