Port Authority reducing, waiving fees to boost airlift in territory

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The V.I. Port Authority is offering an incentive program designed to lure new airlift to the territory - St. Croix in particular.

If an airline adds a new route to St. Croix, or to St. Thomas in the off-peak hours, the port authority will waive all landing fees and half of all passenger fees for 12 months.

To be eligible, the airline must add new service between November and November 2016.

"Port Authority officials have been working diligently with the commissioner of the V.I. Department of Tourism to market this incentive - particularly to prospective airlines with an interest in St. Croix," Port Authority Executive Director Carlton Dowe said in a written statement. "While I cannot list the names of the companies at this time, I can say that there are several major airlines that we have spoken with that have an interest in adding St. Croix to their itineraries. Our progress thus far have been exceptionally positive."

Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty, who also sits on the Port Authority board, said she pushed for the board to accept the incentive plan, which it did at the last board meeting.

"It is something that we have used in the past," she told The Daily News. "It is an excellent mechanism to help us in attracting new airlift, specifically for St. Croix."

She said the incentive will be a tool she can use to court airlines and encourage them to begin serving the Virgin Islands, or expand their existing service.

"We need all the tools that we can get as we compete for airlift availability and service to the destination," Nicholson-Doty said.

She said Tourism and the port authority have been working closely, meeting with airlines together and looking at available types of aircraft and key markets. The combination of airport incentives and Tourism marketing initiatives will help boost the number of visitors that can fly into the territory.

"It is really about route development," she said. "It is certainly looking at new opportunities for new carriers, but also about route expansion. Anything that we can do to increase lift into the Virgin Islands."

The Port Authority incentive will apply to any new or expanded service to St. Croix and any new or expanded service to St. Thomas in the off-peak hours.

Dowe said most domestic airlines arrive in the afternoon hours, and morning and evening air traffic is very slow. He said he hopes the incentive program will attract more flights before noon and after 5 p.m.

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email alewin@dailynews.vi.

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