Seaborne Airlines made its inaugural landing at the Melville Hall Airport on Monday April 1, marking the consummation of the new relationship.

At the ceremony, Chairman of the Dominica Air and Sea Port Authority, Benoit Bardouille expressed pleasure at the beginning of what he hoped would be a productive alliance.

“We are indeed delighted to be able, after the service of American Eagle has come to an end to instantly or seamlessly bring a new service to Dominica out of San Juan.  We have been in negotiations with Seaborne for a few months and I dare say that it was indeed very tough to be able to get the service instituted as of the first of April; because there was a very strong demand from the travelling public and from the business community that Dominica should not lose any service as it relates to connections out of Puerto Rico and so we are here today to be able to say to you and to the travelling public that we are indeed pleased that we have been able to see through and to get all the necessary certifications to ensure that Seaborne airlines can be in Dominica today.”

Importantly, Bardouille noted, that Seaborne Airlines have made baggage arrangements for the convenience of its passengers who have connecting flights.

He says, “Seaborne Airlines is pleased also to say to us that they have an interlining agreement with American Airlines which means that the passengers’ utilizing Seaborne will be able to have their bags tagged through to American Airlines and that’s important for our travellers because not many of us like to recheck our bags time and time again. Given the fact that we have been working on air access issues for quite a while now, we would not like a new issue where persons seeking to connect to American Airlines would have to go back again to recheck their bags when they arrive in Puerto-Rico.”

Director of Tourism and CEO of the Discover Dominica Authority, Colin Piper believes that Seaborne Airlines will mean great things for Dominica’s air access development.

“It’s very important for us to continue to have air access out of San Juan which is a key hub to the North American market.  We recognise that American Eagle provided us with some 16,000 plus seats and we are encouraged by the fact that Seaborne will be taking up a majority of that. We’ve had to look at alternative routes and other service providers to make up the difference. However, we want to make sure that the private sector is behind the service that is being provided by Seaborne through San Juan, that in all your communications with your tour operators and travel agents abroad that you continue to stress the convenience of this service.”

President of Seaborne Airlines, Gary Foss revealed that based on feedback from other Caribbean countries, the withdrawal of American Eagle not only affects Dominica but other regional islands as well.

He says, “We’ve been flying primarily out of the US Virgin Islands but have been operating for nineteen years and recently we have been spreading our wings from San Juan to not only St. Thomas and St. Croix but we’ve launched service to Tortolla, the Virgin Gorda, to Vieques and now this great day to Dominica.  In about a month and a half we are going to begin operations to Martinique and also to Guadeloupe. We maintain at Seaborne the highest FAA standard, Federal Aviation Administration standard for maintenance and pilot training.  We’re called part one twenty one carrier which is the same as United Airlines, American Airlines, Delta and all of those airlines have in place.  That’s not the norm for the regional business so we are very pleased.  We actually have FAA inspectors that show up on our property every day, four or five of them, just like Seaborne employees so this is a very good safe operation.  We will operate weekly, seven round trips.

Foss looks forward to great results from the new partnership between the carrier and Dominica.

According to Foss, the schedule which now includes regular flights from Dominica to San Juan, Puerto Rico will help position Dominica to take advantage of the international tourism market.

“The schedule is going to connect business and leisure travelers from major markets, Boston, New York, Washington, Chicago, Dallas, Fort Worth, Miami and Los Angeles, you have a lot of traffic believe it or not from Los Angeles, plus the international connections that you will pick up at San Juan, near three hundred departures a day that will be connecting to 700 departures a day out of Miami.  We’re definitely part of the global transportation grid with the San Juan service.

Managing Director of Whitchurch, Gerry Aird stated that his organisation is appreciative of the opportunity to work so closely with the newly-inaugurated airline.

“It’s a tremendous responsibility because we all know how important the Puerto Rico hub is to Dominica and obviously to our visitors so we can’t afford to mess up.  We have had a ground-handling company since the 1980’s at both Canefield and Melville Hall and we have seen so many airlines come and go and it has been a struggle to keep going as a ground handling company.  However, we are delighted today the first of April that we are the ones chosen.

Seaborne Airlines will service the San Juan/Dominica route with thirty-four seats per trip and a 95 per cent on-time performance rating.