American Airlines-St Lucia deal ‘cannot continue!’

Barely a month following his appointment as tourism minister, Lorne Theophilus has been making waves.
He told the STAR in an exclusive interview that the current deal with American Airlines “cannot continue.” Theophilus noted that the agreement made between the last administration and American Airlines has plunged the country into debt. He further indicated that the Labour Party government will not continue such a deal that, according to him, is not in the country’s best interest.
“The whole deal that existed with American Airlines which plummeted our country into debt is something that we cannot continue,” he said before quickly adding, “not in its current form.”
The arrangement, Theophilus said was not beneficial to the economy of St Lucia. “So this has to be reviewed and reviewed very seriously.”
However, the former minister for tourism, Allen Chastanet, in June last year said that American Airlines had helped keep St Lucia’s economy humming.
“We could not have asked for a better partner than American Airlines, who have stood by St Lucia through thick and thin,” Chastanet said. “With airlines cutting back services in today’s recessionary environment, American’s commitment to serve St Lucia via daily nonstop flights from Miami and twice daily flights from San Juan helps to keep our economy ticking.”
The St Lucia Labour Party accused the former minister for tourism last year during heated election campaigns of agreeing with American Eagle to establish a flight he knew did not make any economic sense. The party claims that Chastanet gave American Eagle a revenue guarantee that if they could not fill the flight, the Saint Lucia Tourist Board would pay for the losses.
The Director of Tourism, Louis Lewis declined to comment to the STAR after this reporter attempted to obtain accurate figures on just how much Saint Lucia was paying to AA.
According to the St Lucia Labour Party’s website, the American Eagle airlift is costing St Lucia US$2 Million to operate in and out of St Lucia. The article further claims that American Airlines has reduced its operations out of San Juan thereby reducing its flights by 66 percent into Puerto Rico, and as a result, American Eagle has cut back its own San Juan operations by 70 percent leaving new minister for tourism to question why St Lucia should pay for a half empty flight if the hub is on the verge of closing down.
When the STAR asked the former tourism minister about his thoughts on the matter he said that, “the records can speak for itself, when December gets here, at the end of the year, we will know whether it was a bad deal.”
American Airlines started non-stop service from John F Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to St Lucia in 2007 and currently provides this service three times a week while American Eagle started its service in 2011.

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