NY Times: Dec. 17, 2018
Airlines are adding seasonal nonstop flights that will help cut down on the travel time between the airport and the beach.
When planning a Caribbean vacation, you might begin by sifting through the latest list of top beaches or hot new hotels. But where you ultimately decide to go often comes down to one thing: how convenient is the flight?
This is not a secret to the airlines, which also realize that the more direct the route, the more likely they are to get passengers’ dollars.
Airlines continue to add routes to the islands from key U. S. cities. The number of nonstop flights between the United States and the Caribbean jumped 18 percent to 135,162 in 2018 from 114,150 five years ago, according to OAG Analytics, a global travel data company.
American Airlines alone has added nine new flights to the Caribbean and Bahamas this season, including new year-round service between Miami and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dallas-Fort Worth and Aruba, as well as from New York’s La Guardia Airport to Nassau in the Bahamas. Other new seasonal nonstop flights will run from Chicago to Aruba, Grand Cayman, Nassau and the Turks and Caicos. The airline is also increasing service from its Miami hub to the Caribbean with additional daily flights to Barbados, Curaçao, St. Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, and both Santo Domingo and Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic.
Delta Air Lines has added five new nonstop seasonal flights out of Boston’s Logan International Airport, linking that city’s travelers to Aruba, Montego Bay in Jamaica, Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, the Turks and Caicos, and Nassau in the Bahamas.
Some Caribbean islands, including St. Martin and St. Thomas lost flights when airlines curtailed routes in the wake of destruction by Hurricanes Irma and Maria September 2017. But with the high season around the corner, airlines are reinstating service and adding new flights to boot.
To help you plan your next getaway, here is a rundown on the key new routes to the Caribbean and Bahamas this season:
Antigua and Barbuda
Delta Air Lines has just begun flying nonstop from John F. Kennedy Airport to this two-island nation. American has a nonstop flight from Miami that will increase to two times a week.
Getting from the Midwest to Aruba, 15 miles off the coast of Venezuela, is getting easier this winter. This month, American started a new weekly nonstop from Dallas-Fort Worth. The airline will also begin a weekly flight out of Chicago. And Delta began an Aruba-to-Boston flight that departs and returns on Saturdays.
American has added year-round nonstop flights on Saturdays between Charlotte, N.C., and Marsh Harbour and from New York to Nassau. It will also run year-round, nonstop Saturday service from Charlotte to North Eleuthera and increase its service to two times a day from Miami to George Town in Exuma and to seven times a day to Nassau from Miami and three times a day from Charlotte. Delta began flying twice a day to Nassau from New York’s Kennedy Airport in October.
JetBlue began a new daily flight from Fort Lauderdale to Grand Cayman in late October and Southwest Airlines reinstated seasonal service along the same route. American began flying nonstop from Chicago on Saturdays this month. And for the first time, Cayman Airways will fly nonstop between Denver and Grand Cayman starting in March. The new nonstop service will reduce the travel time from Denver to less than five hours from between nine and 11 hours using multiple flights, according to the airline.
Earlier this year, JetBlue added a daily round-trip between Fort Lauderdale and Santiago, boosting its service in the Dominican Republic, where it already flies to five airports — La Romana, Puerto Plata, Punta Cana, Santiago and Santo Domingo. Spirit began flying between Orlando and Santo Domingo in October as well as Newark and Santo Domingo in November. Delta has just reinstated its seasonal route to Punta Cana from Boston. And Frontier Airlines will start a nonstop service from Cleveland, Cincinnati and St. Louis to Punta Cana in January.
Visitors to Jamaica will benefit from an increase in airlift from a range of cities this high season. In November, Frontier began nonstop flights twice a week to Montego Bay from Raleigh, N.C. In February, the low-cost carrier will begin service between Philadelphia and Montego Bay. This month, Delta began a new daily nonstop flight from New York’s Kennedy Airport to Kingston and will soon reinstate its seasonal nonstop from Boston to Montego Bay. Spirit Airlines is now offering a nonstop from Detroit to Montego Bay three times a week and will add new nonstops to Kingston from Orlando in February and to Montego Bay from Baltimore/Washington and Orlando in March. Southwest Airlines will start flying between St. Louis and Montego Bay nonstop on Saturdays in March.
Airlines are ratcheting up flights to St. Lucia for the high season. American is adding extra nonstop flights from Miami through April 1. United Airlines will reinstate nonstop flights from Chicago O’Hare on Saturdays from Jan. 5 through March.
St. Kitts & Nevis
This dual-island nation is getting more accessible with United adding a second weekly nonstop flight from Newark Liberty International Airport that will run on Wednesdays from Jan. 9 through March 6. (Previously, the airline only offered flights on Saturdays from Newark to St. Kitts.) Sun Country Airlines will begin nonstop seasonal service from Minneapolis on Saturdays from Dec. 22 through April 20. And Delta just added a seasonal nonstop flight from Atlanta.
Roughly a year after Hurricane Irma devastated this dual-nation island, split between French and Dutch territories, reconstruction has begun at Princess Juliana International Airport, where arrivals and departures are operating out of temporary pavilions. Nevertheless, roughly 80 percent of weekly flights cut in the wake of the destruction have resumed, according to the local tourism board. In November, American resumed daily nonstop flights from Charlotte, N.C. and in December reinstated nonstop service from Philadelphia. On Dec. 22, Delta is scheduled to resume Saturday service from JFK. And in February, JetBlue will begin daily nonstop flights from Fort Lauderdale.
Jim Hepple is an Assistant Professor at the University of Aruba and is Managing Director of Tourism Analytics.