By: Erasmus Williams
BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, OCTOBER 2ND 2017 – Several of the islands in the Eastern Caribbean whose airports were devastated in varying degrees by recent hurricanes Irma and Maria, have announced the reopening or possible reopening dates of their national airports.
The Government of Anguilla has announced that recovery from Hurricane Irma is proceeding at an extraordinary pace. Phone and internet communications have been restored to most parts of the island. Roads and beaches have been cleared, there are no longer queues at petrol stations, and grocery stores are well provisioned. Many local restaurants have reopened, along with a number of hotels that are housing relief workers and UK government officials.
Significant progress is also being made on the restoration of the electricity grid; power lines to many villages have been restored in the three weeks following Irma.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, the terminal at Blowing Point will be demolished. Architectural plans have already been commissioned for the design and construction of the new facility. Construction is expected to begin shortly, at which point a more detailed timeline will be provided.
Seaborne Airlines has also announced the resumption of service between Anguilla and San Juan beginning 30 September, departing San Juan at 12:10 pm to arrive in Anguilla at 1:15 pm and departing Anguilla at 1:45 pm to arrive in San Juan at 2:50 pm
Seaborne Airlines also announced on its FaceBook page that it has resumed service on 30 September to Antigua, St. Kitts and Nevis, and to St Thomas on 2 October.
British Virgin Islands
The British Virgin Islands Terrence B. Lettsome International Airport resumed commercial flight operations on Monday, October 2.
Managing Director of the BVI Airports Authority, Denniston Fraser said, the hours of operation will be from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00p.m. daily,” adding that there will be no night operations as yet.
Following the impact of Hurricane Irma on September 6, operations at the Terrence B. Lettsome International Airport was restricted to humanitarian, relief and evacuation flights only.
Mr. Fraser said the airport sustained severe damage and as result repair work had to be undertaken to rectify the issues and meet the standards of Air Safety Support International (ASSI) for commercial flight authorisation.
He explained that “major concerns for ASSI were having competent staff in place, addressing issues with the fence, ensuring that equipment, control tower equipment and generators’ are in a reliable position so that the Airport can function properly.
The BVI Airports Authority Managing Director is advising the travelling public to arrive at the Airport at least three hours before the departure time as the check-in and security processes will be fully implemented.
Commercial flight operations at the Terrence B. International Airport were expected to resume in mid-September following Hurricane Irma. However, the passage of Hurricane Maria on September 19 resulted in further damage and delays to the planned resumption of commercial flights.
BVI ferry companies (Road Town Fast Ferry and Native Son) have resumed operations between the islands allowing BVI Islanders, residents and work permit holders to return to the country.
Minister of aviation Mellissa Arrindell-Doncher told The Daily Herald last week that the management of Princess Juliana International Airport was still carrying out in-depth assessments of the internal and external facilities, the majority of which suffered heavy to severe damage. The minister estimated the airport would not be back at full operation capacity “in all its glory” for another 35 weeks, but would be able to function optimally much sooner than that.
The entire airport perimeter fencing was destroyed and all four jet bridges sustained substantial structural damage. The swing cabs were blown off all four bridges and all metal entrance doors attached between the bridges and the terminal building were blown in.
All runway and taxiway lights and precision approach path indicators were destroyed. The shoulders and a section of the runway were underwater.
The majority of the roof was destroyed in the terminal building exposing the terminal to outdoor elements with water found on all four levels of the terminal.
There is no official date for the resumption of commercial flights into St Maarten, according to the minister.
n the meantime, the Dutch St. Maarten regional air carrier Winair had repositioned its aircraft to St. Vincent prior to Hurricane Irma and until late last week the fleet was operating from St Kitts’ Robert L. Bradshaw International Airport as fuel and security for aircraft were not yet available in St Maarten.
Winair has performed in excess of 60 relief flights evacuating non nationals and providing transportation to legal residents of St. Maarten/St. Martin.
Winair suffered massive damage to its facilities and consequently basic telecommunications, internet, electricity and water were disrupted, making operations difficult.
“The resilience of our employees who came to assist must be noted and is much appreciated by all,” Winair said in a post-hurricane update.
Winair is currently in the process of rebuilding and reintroducing a limited schedule serving the following destinations: Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Barth, Antigua and St. Kitts, once the authorization is given by the appropriate authorities.
“We are optimistic that this will be granted by October 1, 2017,” Winair said.
Tortola, Guadeloupe, Dominica and San Juan will be additional destinations once facilities and approvals are granted for resumption of service. Winair is working with appropriate authorities to introduce a frequency service St Maarten – Curacao – St. Maarten to allow the public to connect with carriers serving Curacao. In conjunction, Winair will resume service to Haiti as soon as possible.
Winair announced that it has secured office space in Philipsburg to provide sales and reservation services to the public, and the expected opening date is Wednesday, October 4.
United States Virgin Islands
United States Virgin Islands Commissioner of Tourism said the USVI travel and tourism partners on the U.S. mainland have expended precious resources “to help the people of the Virgin Islands get back on our feet and get our economy moving again.”
“These gestures go a long way in helping people and advancing our government’s efforts to return the Territory to a degree of normalcy as we recover and rebuild,” said Commissioner Nicholson-Doty, who reported that weekend discussions with Governor Kenneth E. Mapp, members of his Cabinet and the business community on St. Croix (similar to a meeting held last week in the St. Thomas/St. John district) were productive and focused on the phased re-opening of the Territory to land and cruise visitors.
She confirmed that the Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas is open, and the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix is scheduled to open for commercial flights later this week.