U.S. Air Carriers Ramp Up Barbados Service
American Airlines apparently has not enjoyed JetBlue’s growth in the Caribbean, particularly in Barbados.
American has been a leader in the region since it acquired Eastern Air Line’s Miami Caribbean operation, which included Barbados service, in 1989. But in 2009, JetBlue began Kennedy-Barbados service; in 2014 it added Fort Lauderdale-Barbados and in 2015 it added Boston-Barbados. In the winter of 2016-2017, JetBlue even tried weekly Newark-Barbados.
On Wednesday, Barbados tourism officials, gathered in Charlotte, said that JetBlue may have a bigger share of the U.S. traffic at Grantley Adams International Airport (BGI) than American does. But that dominance will end Dec. 19, when American begins daily seasonal Charlotte-Barbados service and adds as a third daily Miami-Barbados flight, using Airbus A-319 aircraft in both cases.
Added JetBlue capacity and lower fares largely accounted for a 17% increase in U.S.-Barbados traffic in 2017, when Barbados welcomed a record 188,970 U.S. passengers. Bailey said about 80% is tourist traffic; the rest is VFR, an industry term for visiting friends and relatives.
The U.S. is the island’s second biggest tourist market, after Great Britain. Canada is third and Germany is fourth. Great Britain is served by three carriers, Canada and the U.S. by two carriers and Germany by one.
Expanded Barbados service is just one piece of American’s planned winter expansion in the Caribbean. In May, the carrier announced a major Caribbean expansion that included eight new non-stop routes, including new Saturday flights from Charlotte to North Eleuthera and Abaco, and an expansion in Miami frequencies.
American spokeswoman Katie Cody said Wednesday that Barbados “is doing well and has very strong demand (and) Charlotte gives us great connections.” Charlotte, the world’s third largest single airline hub, has 674 daily flights to 160 destinations including dozens in the Midwest and west that would gain improved routing to Barbados.
Meanwhile, JetBlue spokesman Philip Stewart said the carrier’s Barbados service “has resulted in a growing number of visitors to the island” and includes premium Mint service weekly from JFK and seasonally from Boston. “We remain committed to elevating Barbados’ stature among travelers in North America,” Stewart said. JetBlue serves 29 Caribbean destinations.
Barbados has a historic link to the Carolinas. The first ship carrying Europeans into Charleston harbor arrived from Barbados in 1670. “We are the only colony that ever founded a colony,” said Petra Roach, U.S. director for Barbados Tourism Marketing.
American, like the other two global U.S. airlines, has always been protective of its markets. Two recent moves, in addition to the increased Barbados service, highlight that commitment.
Last month, barely a week after Mexican low-cost airline Volaris announced it will begin twice-weekly Guadalajara-Charlotte service on Nov. 22, American said it will begin daily seasonal Charlotte-Guadalajara service starting on Jan. 6.
Two weeks ago, American announced daily winter season service from Phoenix to Grand Rapids and Madison, Wisc., matching the twice-weekly service that Frontier had announced weeks earlier.