By Shermain Bique-Charles
In the wake of news that Antigua and Barbuda is among the 17 routes that JetBlue airline will be cancelling this year, Minister of Tourism Charles “Max” Fernandez believes that the local tourism industry has been dealt another blow.
The airline indicated it is mostly cutting routes it had added during the pandemic in the hopes of luring more passengers even as the number of flights had dropped. Between January 6 2020, and January 4 2021, it said, there was a 43.5 percent decrease in scheduled flights worldwide.
“As we have throughout the pandemic, we are continually evaluating our route map to ensure it is aligned with customer demand trends and to help us get back to profitability on a consistent basis,” a JetBlue representative told The Points Guy in a statement.
Furthermore, the airline said that as part of an ongoing review of its network, this spring “we’ll end service on 17 routes that have underperformed, and transition a handful of markets to seasonal”.
About 65 percent of the slashed routes are to Latin American and Caribbean destinations.
Fernandez said yesterday that the move affects a number of destinations and was not a direct indictment against Antigua and Barbuda.
“But it is not good news for air arrivals … I think it is all as a result of what is happening with the Omicron virus. It is very contagious and there is a tremendous amount of absenteeism and I believe they are cutting back because they have no staff,” he said.
In addition, Fernandez believes that there are less people travelling because, according to him, “you have to get fully vaccinated to travel and some people are against vaccination”.
JetBlue’s announcement comes just over a week after Air Canada announced its cancellation of flights to Antigua and Barbuda and other sun destinations.
But, on the brighter side, Canada-based airline, Sunwing, is returning to the destination as of Saturday, and will be operating weekly flights to the island.
“One hundred and forty passengers will be on the flight,” Fernandez said.
“This is good news to put alongside what is happening. Within another month or so, it is believed that the fourth wave [of Covid] would have started to decline and we are anticipating that this would allow for those who postpone their holidays [to] reschedule,” he added.