Air Transport World

Airlines fight to dominate U.S.V.I. market; Virgin Islands Seaplane Shuttle, Virgin Air and Sunaire vy for command of inter-island traffic feeding St. Thomas and St. Croix hubs.

Christiansted--The ideal commuter airline market might be a group of related communities 40 to 100 miles apart, with no land connections. They would have VFR weather virtually all the time, and a climate gentle enough for passengers to enjoy outdoor boarding. If the principal airport in the region had a runway too short for large jets, so much the better.

This description fits the three islands of the U.S. Virgin Islands, located in the Caribbean at the easternmost point of U.S. jurisdiction. Several British islands and Puerto Rico are close enough to be part of the commuter service pattern.

There are two main airports in the U.S. Virgin Islands--Harry S. Truman on St. Thomas and Alexander Hamilton on St. Croix. These airports are easier for commuter/Regionals to serve--and the Puerto Rican based carrier, Prinair, flies more passengers to these two airports than American Airlines, Eastern Airlines and Air Florida combined.

One reason it is easier for the smaller carriers is that the runway on the main island of St. Thomas is only 5,158 ft long. …

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