Dec. 16, 2005 One of the most important recent events to fly down Cyril E. King Airport's runway happened Thursday with Spirit Airlines' inaugural flight.
"This is the first time a new scheduled airline came into the territory in many years," Tourism Department marketing manager Steve Bornn said Friday.
Bornn said the flight was filled to capacity with about 180 passengers. The daily flights also increase airlift to St. Thomas. The flight departs from Fort Lauderdale, which Bornn said was an up-and-coming airport and an important player in the south Florida market.
"This represents the opening of a brand new market," Bornn said.
He said that Spirit also carries first-class passengers, which means well-heeled visitors could opt for the airline. Spirit connects through its Fort Lauderdale hub to Atlanta, Atlantic City, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Detroit, New York's LaGuardia Airport, Orlando, Providence, Rhode Island, Tampa, and Reagan National in Washington, D.C.
Additionally, the airline flies to other destinations like Santo Domingo, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, but travelers will have to overnight in Fort Lauderdale to fly Spirit.
The flights leave Fort Lauderdale at 10:45 a.m., arriving on St. Thomas at 2:30 p.m. The flights depart St. Thomas at 3:35 p.m., arriving in Fort Lauderdale at 5:30 p.m.
While people in the tourism industry are thrilled about Spirit's arrival, it also holds promise for residents who want to head to Fort Lauderdale and beyond.
"A hundred people were on the return flight," Bornn said.
He pointed out that Fort Lauderdale has shopping, including the enormous Sawgrass Mills. Additionally, people who need specialized medical care can find it in the Fort Lauderdale area. And, he said, Fort Lauderdale is a great location for a weekend getaway.
While Spirit's fares are competitive, their sales are often inexpensive. One this week on selected days had fares from St. Thomas to Fort Lauderdale at $39 each way. They go fast, however, so it pays to sign up for their e-mail alerts at www.spiritair.com.
Additionally, the Web site has a function that allows customers to look at fares on either side of their target date. The differences can be dramatic. A Jan. 18 flight to Fort Lauderdale ran $49, while on Jan. 19, the price jumped to $109.
St. John resident Kathy McLaughlin looks at Spirit's arrival with two sets of eyes. Since she owns a villa management company, Island Getaways, she sees how the airline could help in bringing tourists to the island. She's also excited because Spirit's prices means she'll be able to visit her family in south Florida more often.
"It's always so expensive," she said, marveling at $39 and $49 fares.
She said she usually books flights about two weeks ahead because she has to see how busy she'll be, so Spirit's frequent sales will be a boon. McLaughlin also had high marks for the Fort Lauderdale airport. She said it's not "overwhelming" like Miami International Airport.
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