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V.I. Government Subsidizing American Eagle Flights

Jan. 24, 2005 –Less than a month after Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards held a news conference on St. Croix to herald the resumption of inter island service by American Eagle between St. Thomas and St. Croix, it is reported that the V.I. government has completely subsidized the three daily flights on a four- month contract for an as-yet undisclosed sum.
For weeks, since the flights resumed on Jan. 3, aviation sources have said that the flights have not garnered the support expected when the service was announced on Dec. 6. "They have gone out with few passengers," one source said, while another travel industry executive, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said, "Demand for the flights has been weak."
When Richards announced the return of the Eagle flights between the two islands, he never mentioned the government was footing the bill for the three flights.(See Eagle Resumes Flights Between St. Croix, St. Thomas").
Richards, who has been charged with leading the Turnbull administration’s economic recovery of St. Croix, heaped high praise on American Eagle executives for "their willingness to work with us on achieving what we’re calling a seasonal service agreement," which Richards said would "fill the void in seat and flight availability and which we hope will become a long-term arrangement after this trial period."
The aviation source said Monday, from offices on the mainland, that there are no inter-island flights appearing on the American Airlines reservation system beyond May 1. Richards said in December that the flights were a result of "long-term negotiations." He said, "We’ve been back and forth for the last six months." Richards was flanked at the news conference by American Eagle President Gary Elmer and the airline’s marketing representative, Pedro Fabregas.
The flights operate seven days a week leaving St. Thomas for St. Croix at 7:50 a.m., 1:40 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. The flights depart St. Croix for St. Thomas at 7:30 a.m., 12 noon and 6:51 p.m.
Government House deferred questions about the government’s relationship with the San Juan based regional airline to the Lt. Governor’s office on Monday. A spokesperson for the Lt. Governor said he would respond to questions later.
Corporate spokeswoman for American Eagle Minette Velez was not available for comment on Monday. Velez, in the past two weeks, has not responded to specific inquires about the V.I. government’s relationship with American Eagle.

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