Aviation lore has it that in the 1960’s Pan American Airlines added service to Eleuthera, in the Bahamas, for one reason: the carrier’s founder, Juan Trippe, owned a partial interest in the Cotton Bay Club. Soon after, the resort became a playground for the rich and famous. When Pan Am collapsed, however, and service to Eleuthera ended, Americans headed to more convenient islands.
Usually, an airline’s decision on whether to add or drop a route is not made in quite so cavalier a manner, but it’s still true that before a destination can become the Next Big Thing, travelers have to be able to get there.
"It’s about body count and money," says George Hamlin, a vice president of Morten Beyer & Agnew, an aviation-consulting firm. JetBlue spokesman Marty St. George says that his carrier asks: "Is it a place our customers want to go?And can we serve that need and make money?" When JetBlue added $99 one-way fares to Aruba and Bermuda, the impact on the island’s resorts was immediate. Scott Allen, general manager of the Hyatt Regency in Aruba, says the flights help fill his resort. "You can leave New York City at eight-thirty in the morning and be sitting on the beach at two-thirty," he says. "Since the middle of September, we’ve done very well. We can see it turning around."
This year Delta has more new routes to the Caribbean and Mexico than any other carrier, with 20; the majority of these depart from Los Angeles or Atlanta, including the first direct service to Martinique from the United States in more than 20 years. Northwest makes heading south easier for Midwestern travelers, with routes from Detroit to St. Thomas and Ixtapa, Mexico, and Cancún’s post-Wilma rebound should be aided by United’s new service from Los Angeles and Chicago as well as JetBlue’s flights from New York’s JFK.
Sometimes the right aircraft and schedule can make all the difference. Last year, Delta shifted from one large craft flying weekly to Providenciales, in Turks and Caicos, to daily flights on a smaller plane, Delta spokesperson Gina Laughlin says. At the Parrot Cay Resort, a 35-minute boat ride from Providenciales, the change was welcome. Manager Jeff Morgan says that an added flight can bump up his bookings substantially. "We probably see a ten percent increase when Delta adds a flight."
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