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ST THOMAS, USVI — US Virgin Islands Governor John de Jongh has expressed disappointment with the decision by Seaborne Airlines to relocate its corporate offices from the USVI to San Juan, Puerto Rico. The regional airline announced the move on December 18, which will mean the loss of about 88 jobs on St Croix, where the airline has been based for 20 years.
“Like many Virgin Islanders, I am disappointed by this decision. The government of the Virgin Islands and the residents of the territory have been very faithful to the airline, and we are feeling an emotional response to the company’s decision and the resulting loss of jobs on St Croix. However, we will continue to work with Seaborne to preserve the routes to and from St Croix and St Thomas, through airport and seaplane bases, as these routes and the resulting traffic provide the lifeblood for our communities,” de Jongh said.
“I think that this news underscores the importance of working with corporate entities to ensure their viability,” explained the governor.
“The Government Employees Retirement System (GERS) was highly criticized when it stepped in with loans totaling $4.8 million in 2009 and 2012 to allow Seaborne to first stabilize and then expand its operations to take advantage of the departure of American Airlines. However, Puerto Rico is now providing $16 million to the airline and an equity position, which frankly will allow Seaborne to become a stronger airline and offer more service to the region. The Virgin Islands cannot be complacent in these competitive times; we must be just as aggressive in working with companies that are vital to our economic stability,” he continued.
De Jongh added, “I am sure that this was a hard decision for Seaborne Airlines because of the company’s ties to our community and their employees. I hate losing these jobs, but understand the company’s desire to expand its operations. To some extent being in Puerto Rico will provide an advantage for the company, and we need to determine how it will become an advantage for the Virgin Islands as well. I’m sure that the airline recognizes that without the loyalty of Virgin Islands passengers and the loan from GERS it would not have been able to make this expansion.”
Seaborne Airlines announced that the move of its corporate offices will be finalized by March of 2014 and that the positions affected were all administrative. The company has also stated that the employees in these positions are being offered the opportunity to move with the corporate offices and first option on new positions created in Puerto Rico.