Last updated: 04:21 PM ET, Wed September 30 2015

Caribbean Tourism Official Calls For 'Open Skies' Airline Policy

Airlines & Airports | Brian Major | September 30, 2015

Caribbean Tourism Official Calls For 'Open Skies' Airline Policy

PHOTO: CTO secretary general Hugh Riley called for a “single domestic air space” across the Caribbean. (Photo by Brian Major)

Several major U.S. airlines have added new Caribbean flights this year, but the region’s tourism stakeholders are looking for more. Regional government authorities should institute an “open skies” policy wherever possible to eliminate secondary screening at Caribbean airports, said Hugh Riley, secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO).

Speaking this week at the World Route Development Forum in Durban, South Africa, Riley said an open skies policy would “allow regional carriers to take unlimited flights to all Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member states” and encourage “growth of competition among carriers.”

Also, eliminating secondary screening would “encourage greater demand for intra-regional travel,” said Riley, while improved interline arrangements would facilitate “vastly enhanced” baggage transfers and improve the overall experience for passengers.

“Cooperation in these areas will encourage and facilitate greater investment by airlines into and across the Caribbean region,” said Riley.  “This type of cooperation and collaboration needs to be the standard practice in serving the region’s various tourism needs.”

Finally, CARICOM countries should establish a “single domestic air space” to generate additional international traveler demand, which will encourage airlines to establish routes to the region, said Riley. “Unnecessarily lengthy policy development and slow implementation processes hinder progress,” he added.

Despite its status as one of the world’s most tourism-dependent regions, the Caribbean has at times struggled with fractured, uneven airline service. In 2012 Josef Forstmayer, then president of the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association, bemoaned the “total lack of a comprehensive, user-friendly air transportation network” in the Caribbean, which he said had a devastating impact on intra-island travel.

Still, several major airlines serving the Caribbean have announced expanded flight schedules to the region both late last year and in 2015. In May, JetBlue announced new flights to Antigua and Barbuda departing from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport beginning this fall.

JetBlue will also launch direct flights between Boston and Barbados beginning November 7, while American Airlines which will launch weekly service between Charlotte to Curacao International beginning Dec. 19. Last December, Delta Air Lines launched non-stop service to St. Croix from Atlanta.

JetBlue has also forged a codeshare agreement with Seaborne Airlines, utilizing the airlines’ common hub in San Juan. JetBlue is the leading carrier by flights and seats at Puerto Rico’s Luis Munoz Marin International Airport while Seaborne, which is based in San Juan, is the Caribbean’s largest regional carrier.

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