CASTRIES, St. Lucia -- Reaction was swift to the EC Xpress announcement of suspension of service March 31 to five islands in the eastern Caribbean.

Routes included Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Trinidad; service to Tobago was to have started May 5.

The line flew 25 daily flights on three 37-passenger Bombardier Dash-8 turbo props from its operations hub in Barbados.

Representatives from Dominica and St. Vincent, in particular, said they were "devastated" by the news.

"This loss of service means that travelers, particularly those from the U.S., once again have very limited options for air connections to our island," said a Dominica spokesman.

Apparently, the governments of the five destinations had little advance notice the service was being terminated.

Allan Chastanet, director, said the routes were no longer viable due to a glut of small commuter air services within the EC region.

"Since EC Xpress began service a year ago, other carriers increased capacity on our routes," Chastanet said. "This resulted in an excessive number of seats even though there is a shortage of jet service from the eastern Caribbean to the rest of the world."

EC Xpress had a marketing and code-share alliance with Air Jamaica.

Chastanet said the three EC Xpress planes would be folded into the fleet of Air Jamaica Express, based in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

The total employee count for EC Xpress was 75, and Chastanet said that many of the technical staff would be employed by Air Jamaica Express. Some of the nontech employees would join Sandals Resorts in Jamaica.

EC Xpress, headquartered in St. Lucia, carried 75,000 passengers in its first year of service.

All passengers holding tickets on EC Xpress were either accommodated on other regional lines -- such as American Eagle, BWIA Express, LIAT and Caribbean Star -- or given full refunds.

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