Virgin Atlantic to commence direct flights to AIA in 2021
THE CONVERSATION TO have Virgin Atlantic fly into the Argyle International Airport (AIA) has been one that has been going on for a very long time.
On Tuesday, November 3, at the AIA, Juha Jarvinen, executive vice president (EVP) (Commercial) at Virgin Atlantic and Rikke Christensen, chief commercial officer (CCO) announced that from June 2021, Virgin Atlantic Airways will be flying, twice a week, directly from London Heathrow into the AIA.
Persons will be able to book flights from November 21 on the airline which has its head office in Crawley, England.
Speaking at the announcement ceremony, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Tourism Authority (SVGTA) Glen Beache said the United Kingdom (UK) diaspora was one of the most active groups when it came to raising funds for the construction of the airport so this is a welcomed announcement.
“It is indeed a happy day, we have been speaking about this for years,” Beache said while adding that the SVGTA is very excited about the development.
Beache said the flights are about visitors and the connections out of Europe, not only about the Diaspora and would be travellers.
“As many of you know, our biggest niche market is that of sailing; our four main niche markets are sailing and yachting, diving, romance, which includes weddings and honeymoons and adventure which includes eco-tourism.
“But this is also about those connections coming out of especially Italy and France where sailing is big and also diving. As many of you know divers like to travel with their own equipment so having direct flights is definitely something that we are looking forward to,” Beache said.
Outgoing Minister of Tourism, Sports and Culture Cecil McKie, delivering his final address in that capacity said the relationship between Virgin Atlantic and St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) is “very special to us.”
“You have come to the Caribbean you have been looking for. There is no other destination in the region that is more Caribbean than St Vincent and the Grenadines,” McKie said while adding that the approach an aircraft makes when landing at the AIA is second to none.
Encouraging persons to make use of the flights, McKie said SVG is a safe destination, as internationally and regionally, we have managed the COVID-19 pandemic well.
“We have never closed our borders, neither by air or by sea, and this has been very important.
“In fact that has caused us to keep the economy ticking over. In fact St Vincent and the Grenadines in the region, we are also recognized as having performed the best as in having the least impact of COVID,” McKie said.
He noted that when Virgin commences flights, they can be assured that their passengers are safe as the health protocols here are strictly adhered to and revised often.
“We have done significant investment in the Argyle International Airport and we are already seeing positive results and benefits.
“In fact three years later, we have flights, international flights, coming out of Toronto, we have direct international flights coming out of New York, and we have direct international flights coming out of Miami but the cry has always been…what about the UK?” McKie said while adding that Virgin Atlantic is coming at a time when people living in Europe are excited about the destination.
He said that COVID-19 has lowered the arrival by air numbers but once that period is over, and marketing begins, the numbers will get back to where they were.