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Antigua and Barbuda Seeing “Significant” Airlift Demand 

By: Dana Niland - March 28, 2023

Antigua and Barbuda is seeing record-breaking tourism numbers, and that’s leading to “significant” demand for new routes to the destination from global airlines.

To continue the destination’s push, Antigua and Barbuda Tourism officials, led by Minister of Tourism, Investment, Civil Aviation and Transportation, Charles “Max” Fernandez, met last week with over twenty-five airline partners at the Routes Americas annual conference in Chicago.

Routes Americas is the hemisphere’s largest gathering of Airlines, Airports and Tourism Boards and is the essential event for all aviation-based companies who wish to conduct business to, from and within the region. 

“Without exception all the existing airlines executives who were engaged reported excellent load factors for Antigua,” Fernandez said. “They were keenly interested in the destination and the opportunities that it presented for even stronger revenue yields with the addition of new hotel rooms. The steady growth rates in air arrivals in recent months coupled with the positive GDP forecasts as a result of the Government’s economic policies, has made Antigua and Barbuda stand out within the region.”  

“We are now seen as one of the more attractive destinations with the most potential for new route development,” Fernandez..

Routes Americas offered Antigua and Barbuda the opportunity to meet with some of the most influential aviation professionals from across the Americas region, which is a critical part of its airlift strategy. 

The Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority’s marketing efforts in recent years have been a catalyst in creating the strong demand that has seen the destination record annual visitor arrivals from its two largest source markets the U.S. and U.K. in 2022. 

This upward trajectory in visitor arrivals has continued into the first two months of 2023. 

“The new airlines who do not yet serve the destination or the region were all excited to initiate business contacts and we will do everything to ensure that we remain firmly fixed on their radar,” said CEO of the ABTA, Colin C. James.

“The Caribbean has seen a much stronger and quicker recovery compared to other areas of the globe post pandemic,” James said. “As such, we see airlines now looking seriously to expand service to the region with the delivery of new aircraft, and in tandem with the alleviation of the crew and pilot shortages as they emerge from the pandemic, the ABTA will also be working closely with our major hotel partners to have them use their leverage and influence with the airlines in a joint effort to increase our airlift.”

Announcements are expected within the next few months of at least three new routes that will be opened for the upcoming winter season.  

Another plus for the destination in its lobbying efforts for increased flights was the recent Caribbean Journal ranking of Sir V.C. Bird International airport as the Best Airport in the Caribbean, with its modern state of the art facilities and capacity to handle up to 2 million passengers per year.

Antigua and Barbuda’s efforts are also getting a boost thanks to its recent foray into cruise homeporting, which was well received particularly by several of the European airlines in attendance, officials said. 

These carriers welcomed the potential opportunity to expand their existing service to the destination to cater to this growing segment. Some 9,000 passengers are expected to homeport from Antigua by the end of 2023.

In addition to meetings with existing airlines such as BA, Delta, United, American and JetBlue to explore the options for new gateways, tourism officials also courted several new airlines. 

These included U.S. carriers such as Sun Country, Southwest and Spirit. 

The new carriers that were not familiar with The Sir V. C. Bird International Airport were particularly impressed with the host of facilities available at the country’s international airport gateway, officials said. 

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