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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, April 20, 2024


Come fall of 1999, travelers will be able to "fly the friendly skies" of United Airlines directly into St. Thomas from Chicago's O'Hare Airport and Washington's Dulles International Airport.
Matt Triaca, spokesman for United Airlines, said the decision to schedule weekly flights to St. Thomas was made very recently — days ago, in fact.
He said United had studied the traffic in and out of the Caribbean and saw an opportunity to tap into the heavily traveled leisure market route to St. Thomas.
Derryle Berger of Caribbean Travel said the flights will be scheduled Saturdays and Sundays starting Nov. 6 and will include four flights a week — two from each destination.
Flight times will be as follows:
From Dulles to St. Thomas — leaving 9:35 a.m., arriving 2:14 p.m.
From St. Thomas to Dulles — leaving St. Thomas 5:10 p.m, arriving 8:10 p.m.
From O'Hare to St. Thomas — leaving 7:50 a.m., arriving 2:35 p.m.
From St. Thomas to O'Hare — leaving 3:30 p.m., arriving 7:57 p.m.
John deJongh, president of the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce, responded to the news with "Fantastic! That gives us the airlift that the retailers and hotels say we need to get the overnight guests in here."
DeJongh said he was particularly pleased to hear the flights would be coming from Dulles and O'Hare. "That gives us coverage in the Midwest and the Southeast — really important markets for us."
Richard Doumeng, president of the St. Thomas-St. John Hotel and Tourism Association, said, "We've been aware that the government was negotiating with United, but we thought it was a dead issue.
"It is really important to have a major carrier make a decision to come in here. It will show the other airlines that the Virgin Islands are back. And it will put us in a position to negotiate with other airlines."
Doumeng said the fact that the flights would be direct was particularly good for the territory.
"We lost our direct flight out of Dulles awhile ago," he said. "It will be really good to have it back."
Clement "Cain" Magras, acting Tourism commissioner, said he couldn't take credit for United's entry into the V.I. market because the initiative came from United.
"It's a clear sign from the outside that our economy is strengthening and that the airlines are willing to come back and be partners in the new growth that we are projecting," Magras said.
When asked if the government would subsidize the airline in any way, he said, "That's the best part. We were never approached for any kind of subsidy, but we will probably partner with them in promoting the destination, just like we do with American and Delta."
Triaca could not verify the exact date service would begin but Angela Belfon, owner of World Wide Travel, said she understood flights would begin in November.

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