Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-letter: Dec. 25, 2003

CARIBBEAN SUN AIRLINES can operate in the U.S. Virgin Islands after all. Sun Airways, when it resumes operations, also can do so. And each company will fly under its own name. After Caribbean Sun was denied landing rights Dec. 8 because of a legal brouhaha over the similarity of the two airlines' names, the matter was settled last week during a court-ordered mediation hearing. Sun Airways, a U.S.V.I. corporation, and Caribbean Sun Airlines, a foreign company, will take steps to ensure there's no confusion over their names in the public's perception. Caribbean Sun now offers thrice-daily roundtrip service between St. Croix and St. Thomas and a daily roundtrip flight between St. Croix and San Juan. All flights are aboard Dash Eight aircraft. Sun Airways has no planes now, but the company said it plans to start a regional hub in St. Croix.

AIR JAMAICA will launch nonstop, year-round service from New York [JFK] to Antigua Jan. 30 with four flights a week on Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The carrier already serves Antigua with connecting service from Montego Bay, Jamaica. Air Jamaica Vacations will offer air and land packages to tie in with the new service as will Elite Island Resorts, which owns, operates or manages five Antigua properties. Molwyn Joseph, minister of tourism and environment, said that "consistent, reliable service from JFK is what we have sought for years." David Fernandez, Antigua and Barbuda's director of tourism, U.S., said that the development "in one of our major travel markets pleases public and private sector tourism stakeholders." As part of Air Jamaica's new winter schedules, Barbados will gain nonstop flights from the carrier's Montego Bay hub.

PLEASANT HOLIDAYS' NEW YEAR'S GIFT to travel agents is a tiered booking bonus schedule for travel in 2004. The bonus, effective Jan. 1, applies to online bookings at its Web site [www.pleasantagent.com] or call-in bookings at its toll-free number, (800) 448-3333. On top of their regular commission, agents will receive $40 for every two online bookings to the Caribbean, Hawaii and Mexico; $20 for every two call-in bookings to the same destinations; and $40 for every two call-ins to Asia, Australia, Fiji and French Polynesia. A minimum five-night stay or seven-night cruise is required; air-only, air/car, group bookings and cancelled bookings do not apply; and the operator's Protection Plan must be purchased.

RALPH GONSALVES, prime minister of St. Vincent & The Grenadines, called for the creation of passport-free, intra-regional travel for Caricom [Caribbean Community] nationals. Gonsalves heads a three-member team of prime ministers who are studying ways to strengthen economic and political unity in the Caribbean. The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States introduced a similar hassle-free travel system earlier this year. OECS residents can travel within that region without a passport. All they need for border crossings is a photo ID.

'LIVE, LOVE, [FLY], EAT' could be an appropriate new slogan for US Airways, which will offer signature dishes--no, the plates won't be signed--from Wolfgang Puck in the airline's pay-as-you-go In-flight Cafe. The service, which takes effect Jan. 1, will be available in coach on some Caribbean flights and on most domestic routes of 700 miles or more.

PENCIL IT IN
• Air Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival, Jan. 22 to 25, Rose Hall, Montego Bay, Jamaica. Performers include Indie Arie, Kenny Rogers, Cassandra Wilson and a special tribute to the late Johnny Cash. Montego Bay resorts offer festival packages, including Half Moon's Take Me to the Moon anniversary special with inclusive rates from $499 per room, per night, double. To book, call (800) 626-0592.
• World Series of Poker, Feb. 4 to 6, Divi Carina Bay Casino, St. Croix.
• Triathlon, April 27 to May 5, St. Croix. Chenay Bay Beach Resort has a five-night plan from $600, single or double; the seven-night package starts at $825. Guests 18 and under stay free with parents; kids 12 and under eat free. To book, call (800) 548-4457.
• 26th Antigua Tennis Week, May 7 to 14, Curtain Bluff, Antigua.

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