Editorial: Some will say “better late than never”

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Well, finally, we are getting somewhere with this whole issue of high airfares to Antigua & Barbuda.  To say that we were happy to hear the news that Cabinet has decided to look into why the rates to the twin island state are “so high” is a bit of an understatement. 
For many, many years, we have openly wondered why we seem to have the highest rates to and from international destinations.  The issue is particularly bothersome on well-travelled routes that lack competition.  In some cases, we can travel on the same dates, on the same airlines, stop in the destination of our choice and then onward travel to a further final destination for less than we can get a ticket to the desired destination.
If you haven’t figured it out, we are talking about Miami in our example.  We can fly via Miami to New York for typically less than we can if we were booking a Miami only flight.  (This may be risky to bring up.  We sure hope the airline does not decide to teach us a lesson by hiking the New York rates as a result of this.)
In our last piece on this issue, entitled, “The short end of the flying stick”, the airline industry and the fares actually garnered more support than criticism. Sure, there were only four online comments, but three were critical of our simplistic questions regarding the distances and the fares and one in particular, queried, “Is the writer of this article for real in expecting a direct correlation between distance and the cost of tickets”?  The commenter characterized our piece as “misleading” and then attempted to school us on aviation pricing by saying, “In case the author doesn’t know there are many factors such as shared economies of scale, taxes, subsidies given to airlines, popularity of route, competition etc, that influence such.”
We are always thankful for readers’ comments but we noticed that outside of broad generalizations, no one really answered how the scenario, as described above, could occur?  How can the airfare on a plane flying from Antigua to Miami cost more than airfare on the same airline utilizing that same aircraft for the first leg to New York?   You can literally buy the ticket to New York and get off in Miami for less than you can the same airfare to Miami – on the exact same plane, at the same time, on the same day!
We readily admit that we are not aviation experts and that our simplistic questions are naïve but all we are asking for is some common sense answers in layman’s terms.  We are glad that the Cabinet sees our point and has asked the Minister of Tourism, Asot Michael, to look into the matter because ignoring the issue would be foolish.
Destination vacations are all based on a value proposition.  What is the cost of the experience?  A mediocre experience at a cheap price would technically hold the same value proposition for a visitor as a great experience at a high price. 
Let’s look at another completely unscientific test.  This time, we headed over to online travel giant, expedia.com.  We looked for a two-week packaged deal for two, flying out of Dallas in February of next year.  The top result called the “Deal of the Day” for Antigua was Sugar Ridge hotel at a price of US $3,308 per person (including airfare plus hotel, taxes and fees).  For St Kitts, the Marriott Resort came at the top “Deal of the Day” at US $2,125 per person (including airfare plus hotel, taxes and fees).  Both hotels rate 4.2/5 based on reviews.
We are not seeking to compare the two destinations.  After all, we did say this was completely unscientific. What we are attempting to point out is the value proposition for a regular person travelling.  Which one do you think the average person would pick? 
Minister Greene stated our exact point when he addressed the issue.  He said, “… prices have an impact on the amount of people who come.”  This is exactly why we have to make sure that we are competitive in all areas, and since getting here is the first step in a vacation, why not start at the cost of flying to our paradise?
It would make little difference to our economy if we price ourselves out of this extremely competitive industry.  Most of our eggs are in the tourism basket and we need to make sure that they are not shaken or worse, dropped.  Minister Michael now has the ball. He has been tasked with scoring the come-from-behind, winning goal.  He has the backing of Cabinet so let’s wish him luck.
If he is successful then we, along with our visitors, will all benefit. 

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