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Inter Island American Eagle Flights Ended

May 3, 2005 – Flights between St. Thomas and St. Croix on American Eagle ended May 1 after a four-month, $2 million contract between the government and the San Juan-based carrier expired. And there are already reports in the airline industry that the government will not subsidize a reinstatement of the three daily inter-island flights.
Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards said Monday that the flights have been suspended pending an evaluation of service. "We are reconciling the numbers now, once that is done, I will come forward to speak publically and discuss the results."
The three daily flights between St. Thomas and St. Croix began on Jan. 2 based on a contract Richards entered into with the airline. He also said that the flights were arranged as a seasonal offering, from November to May but this year, as a pilot program, the service did not begin until January.
The contract has been viewed with skepticism since it first began, partly because of the hefty price tag attached to the pact. Members of the Senate and the public openly wondered if the territory was getting its money worth and whether the service was being properly publicized. There were also questions as to whether the flights drew enough commuters to justify the service.
Long before the contract ended, industry sources suggested that the government would not foot the bill for a renewal of the arrangement.
American Eagle officials could not be reached Monday for comment on the status of the flights. Another source said the flights, operated by ATR turbo-props, generally flew the route with less than capacity passenger loads even at times when there was increased demand for transportation between the island such as the Agriculture Fair on St. Croix in February and last week when V.I. Carnival was staged on St. Thomas.
Attempts to book a direct flight between St. Thomas and St. Croix as of May 2 presented only options of first flying from St. Thomas to San Juan before getting to St. Croix.

Editor's note: Jean P. Greaux Jr. also contributed to this story.

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