THE NEWS this week. TransMeridian Airlines, based in
Lithia Springs, Ga., with scheduled and charter service to more
than a dozen U.S. cities, as well as Aguadilla and San Juan, Puerto
Rico; Aruba; Punta Cana and Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic; and
Cancun, Mexico, abruptly stopped flying at midnight Sept. 29,
leaving hundreds of passengers stranded along its route structure.
Vacation Express, which had a number of Caribbean programs with
TransMeridian, set its contingency plan into action and turned to
Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Pace Airlines, its charter partner from
2001 to 2004, as well as Sky King Airlines in Sacramento, Calif.,
and Pan Am, based in Portsmouth, N.H., to lease planes and
reaccommodate its passengers. Gantt Cookson, Vacation Express
vice-president of operations, said his firm re-accommodated 2,558
passengers between Sept. 30 and Oct. 3 and all flights operated.
Cookson said that John Affeltranger, president of TransMeridian,
told him that the carrier did not have the working capital to make
it through that weekend and was filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy
protection. Funjet Vacations, which works with nearly 20 scheduled
and charter airlines, said that TransMeridians shutdown had limited
impact on its domestic routes and no affect in the Caribbean.
GOVERNMENT of Trinidad & Tobago appropriated $250
million in its latest budget presentation to restructure troubled
BWIA, its national carrier, as a viable regional airline, according
to Conrad Enill, minister of finance. The restructuring move
shelves plans for now for a possible merger with LIAT, a regional
carrier based in Antigua. Informal merger discussions had taken
place on and off for the past year or so. And, Caribbean Sun
Airlines will launch eight weekly flights between San Juan and St.
Eustatius (Statia) on Nov. 15. Flights will be daily except on
Wednesdays and twice a day on Saturdays and Sundays aboard 37-seat
Dash8 Q100 aircraft. The service also will link Statia with nearby
St. Kitts with four weekly roundtrips. Half will call on Statia before continuing on to St. Kitts
and ending in San Juan, while the remaining flights will first call
on St. Kitts, continuing on to Statia and ending in San
Juan. For details, visit www.flycsa.com.
FIRST: A Caribbean hotel is opening ahead of schedule. The
856-room, all-inclusive Riu Ocho Rios, the largest of 14 Riu
properties in the Caribbean and its third in Jamaica, will open on
the islands northern coast on Oct. 28, five days earlier than
planned. Other Riu resorts are in the Dominican Republic (eight
plus the Riu Palace Punta Cana, which opens next year), and one
each in the Bahamas and in Aruba. There will be nine Riu resorts in
Mexicos Playa del Carmen, including the Riu Palace Riviera Maya,
opening in 2006, and in Cancun. For details, visit www.riu.com.
appointments in several CTO member countries: Alice
Hortencia Amafo has been named the new minister of tourism in
Suriname; Yvor Nassief was appointed minister of tourism in
Dominica; James Hepple has taken over as director of tourism in
Trinidad and has been replaced as executive director of tourism in
Curacao by Clifton Walle; and Janis Braithwaite-Edwards is now
acting director of tourism in the British Virgin Islands.
Castillo was named corporate spa director of AMResorts
collection of 11 properties in the Dominican Republic and Mexico
under the Secrets Resorts & Spas, Dreams Resorts & Spas and
Sunscape Resorts & Spa brands.