US major United Airlines is to triple its offering to the Caribbean island of St Lucia this coming winter as it adds two additional weekly flights to its current weekly schedule from its Newark Liberty International Airport hub. The airline will introduce a second weekly rotation from Newark as well as the first regular flight between St Lucia and Chicago from December 2015.
The network growth follows an increase in demand between the US and St Lucia, located in the eastern Caribbean Sea and part of the Lesser Antilles. According to arrivals data, visitors are travelling to St Lucia at a record pace with international arrivals from the US currently up nine per cent versus last year.
United first entered the St Lucia market in July 2013 when it introduced a weekly link to the island’s Hewanorra International Airport from its New Jersey hub at Newark Liberty International Airport. This weekly flight will be supplemented by a second weekly rotation from December 20, 2015 through to May 1, 2016.
The Newark operation will be complemented by a new weekly link to Hewanorra International Airport from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. This Saturday flight will operate from December 19, 2015 until April 9, 2016 and will be flown using a Boeing 737-800.
“We are delighted to be announcing new service to Saint Lucia from Chicago and an additional flight from Newark,” said Director of Leisure Sales for United Airlines, Vic Kerckhoff. “Our increased seasonal services will give travellers more flexibility and more choice when flying to the island.”
The expanded offering from United signifies the introduction of the first non-stop regularly scheduled service to St Lucia from Chicago, making the Caribbean island even more accessible for travellers.
“The new flights connect major gateways in the Midwestern United States and provide added convenience for connections with a number of new markets,” said Louis Lewis, director of tourism, St Lucia Tourist Board.
St Lucia has been able to attract foreign business and investment, especially in its offshore banking and tourism industries, but the latter remains Saint Lucia's main source of jobs and income - accounting for 65 per cent of GDP - and the island's main source of foreign exchange earnings.
Away from tourism, its manufacturing sector is the most diverse in the Eastern Caribbean area with crops such as bananas, mangos, and avocados continue to be grown for export. However, St Lucia's once solid banana industry has been devastated by strong competition from other exporters after its preferred access to European markets alongside other Caribbean producers was outlawed by The World Trade Organisation.
Alongside the United Airlines links, St Lucia is served directly from six other points in the US with flights by American Airlines (Miami), Delta Air Lines (Atlanta and seasonal link from New York), JetBlue Airways (New York and seasonal link from Boston) and US Airways (Charlotte and seasonal link from Philadelphia).
Our analysis of Sabre Airport Data Intelligence demand statistics shows that last year around 160,000 passengers arrived at Hewanorra International Airport, the main international air gateway for St Lucia, from destinations across the US, the largest country source market with a 41.7 per cent share. This was only slightly ahead of the UK with a 33.8 per cent share of segment demand arrivals.
In the chart, below, we look more closely at the most popular points of origin and destination for passengers arriving and departing from Hewanorra International Airport last year. US airports account for four of the top ten places, although it is London Gatwick Airport, facilitating the strong leisure demand from the UK and flights from British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways that is the largest single market.