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Caribbean Star Plans Flights To San Juan In May

New Antigua-based airline already has an eight-island network, but still lacks U.S. approval


February 8, 2001
Copyright © 2001 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

CANCUN, Mexico — "According to Caribbean Star’s business plan, we intend to introduce daily service between Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport in San Juan and Antigua May 1," Sandra Scotland, its director of Sales & Marketing, told CARIBBEAN BUSINESS during the recent Marketplace of the Caribbean Hotel Association.

Whether the airline’s business plan will fly is still to be seen, however."Caribbean Star has not applied to the U.S. Department of Transportation for approval to commence service into the U.S. at San Juan," said Sergio Lopez, supervisor of International Flight Standards of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in Miami. "I receive frequent reports from Washington listing applications and contacts from airlines proposing new flights."

The new airline, headed by Texas millionaire banker Allen Stanford, is headquartered in Antigua where Stanford also has other business interests including a bank. He is considered a close friend of Antigua & Barbuda Prime Minister Lester Bird. In addition, Stanford was an early and reportedly generous financial supporter of President George W. Bush. Industry sources indicate that connection could be of assistance to Caribbean Star in its expansions.

Caribbean Star commenced service in the region last year with "wet-lease" Dash-8 aircraft from Canada in order to comply with regulations of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration since Antigua does not meet U.S. aviation maintenance standards. It is operating with Dash-8-300 37-passenger and Dash-8-100 50-passenger aircraft, according to Scotland.

The FAA’s Lopez explained that Antigua, the home base of Caribbean Star, is rated a Category 2 country by the FAA "which means aviation maintenance facilities in that country don’t comply with FAA standards and, therefore, aircraft from that location can’t operate into the U.S."

Caribbean Star could obtain approval to operate into the U.S. under a "wet-lease" authorization utilizing aircraft and crews from an FAA-approved nation. Canada is such a nation. Lopez also indicated that "wet-lease" authorizations are sometimes processed separately and receive approval separately and that his office sometimes hears about them only at the end.

Competitive fares

In addition to a $98 introductory round-trip fare of $98 from San Juan to Antigua, Caribbean Star will offer a 21-day fare of $126 and 30-day fare of $160, both roundtrip.

Roundtrip fares from San Juan to other points in the region include Barbados $144,

Grenada $248, St. Kitts $98, St. Lucia $226, St. Vincent $266, and Trinidad $218.

Its network has now extended to Barbados, the British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts, St. Vincent and Trinidad, said Scotland. Caribbean Star is in direct competition on these routes with Liat, also Antigua-based. By entering the San Juan route Caribbean Star will be in direct competition with American Eagle. Some aviation sources indicate there is not enough business for both carriers on all of these routes year round.

"We know Liat is already in these destinations but we are convinced there is enough business for both carriers, especially at certain times of the year," said Scotland. "In December, for example, we moved close to 9,000 passengers. That begs the question: what would have happened if our additional lift was not available? Competition is good and ultimately the consumer benefits."

Scotland said Caribbean Star plans to later set up a base in San Juan and to eventually offer service to St. Thomas and St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The FAA’s Lopez said that if such a base involved maintenance it would require FAA certification.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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