Parliamentary Secretary, Tourism: “PLANS TO EXTEND HOURS AT AIRPORT A GOOD IDEA”
Mr. Cardigan Connor, Parliamentary Secretary, Tourism, has welcomed plans to expand the opening hours at the Clayton J. Lloyd International Airport to accommodate travelers needing early connecting flights in St. Maarten, and late arriving tourists bound for Anguilla and travelling through the Juliana International Airport in St. Maarten:
“One of the good things is that the Anguilla Air and Sea Ports Authority is looking to expand the hours of operation at the airport in order to have earlier flights from Anguilla to meet connecting flights in St. Maarten – so that Caribbean nationals going to the Eastern Caribbean or Santo Domingo can catch the seven o’clock flight rather than having to overnight in St. Maarten. The same would apply to the flights that get in later in St. Maarten, whether at eight o’clock, including some flights from the United States that get in at ten o’clock. Our airport needs to stay open so that those visitors coming to Anguilla can spend their first night in Anguilla rather than having to overnight in St. Maarten or catch an early flight or a boat in the morning.”
Questioned about what local airline would provide the flights, Mr. Connor replied: “Carl Thomas of Anguilla Air Service is very keen to offer that service and as a scheduled service. Now, you can get early flights on charter but, of course, not everybody can afford that. The idea is that the scheduled service should not only be for visitors, but for Anguillians as well, and we are encouraging our people to use that available service. The airport in St. Maarten closes at eleven pm so if it is a case of us having to stay open at twelve, then we will have to do it.”
He continued: “Initially it might seem as if it [the airport] in Anguilla is running at a loss but the real loss would be that we are not offering a service. This is because, if a number of people want to get to Anguilla for a long weekend, and they get late into St. Maarten and have to leave early, it cancels out Anguilla as an option – and they may make direct flights to the Turks and Caicos or elsewhere because for them every minute is important. So while it may appear to us here that we are losing at the airport, we would gain a lot by having those visitors stay at our hotels thus offering service in food and employment.”
Noting that an Anguilla Air Service plane offers only eight or nine seats, Mr. Connor stated that Trans-Anguilla Air Service is prepared to work with Anguilla Air Service to provide the necessary flights. He went on: “Going forward, with the proposed number of rooms coming to Anguilla, we would like to have direct flights to Anguilla from mainland USA or even from Europe. However, in the meantime, we have to do what we can within our control and that is to be able to extend the hours at the airport just like in St. Barths. Their airport is not as big as ours, but they accommodate the visitors there and we need to do the same in Anguilla.
“The other aspect that we are looking at is that any visitor coming to Anguilla from an island or a country that requires a visa – if they have a US, Canadian or British visa, then they could come to Anguilla on that visa and that again makes life a lot easier. I think that for a number of travelers to Anguilla to send their passports to Jamaica, if they are from the Caribbean or even going through the process of having to get a visa, is a turn off for a number of people. Of course, it is a necessity where visas are required because it means the background checks have to be done, so it is also important that your island is safe within and from those coming to Anguilla.”