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Inaugural direct AA flight welcomed
Date: 18 November 2011

American Airlines flight 673 made its inaugural landing at the V.C Bird International Airport on Thursday, direct from John F Kennedy International Airport in New York, with 118 passengers (80 percent occupancy), to begin a new direct linkage between the two countries.

The AA flight landed at about 1:40 pm with a notable delegation of travel agents and airline staff. It received the customary water cannon salute from airport fire tenders.

Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, Tourism Minister John Maginley, CEO of the Antigua Tourism Authority Colin James, and Finance Minister Harold Lovell were all on hand to welcome the new flight with a champagne reception in the airport's VIP lounge.

CEO James told officials and media personal that the addition brings "good business" for Antigua & Barbuda and stressed the point of partnership between American Airlines and the local tourism industry.

"This is about partnership," he said. "It is about us working together. You can now leave New York at 8 am, and by 2:30 pm you can be on a beach in Antigua & Barbuda."

Maginley echoed James' welcome sentiments and reminded that the flight was a direct result of requests from local hoteliers who demanded more airlift to the territory, particularly at this time of year.

"We listened to the request of the hoteliers. This flight certainly will make a difference for our travel partners," Maginley said. He added that it took some intense negotiations to secure the new flight, but witnessing the end result has proven its worth.

"We are very happy that it started this way," the tourism minister said, referring to the completely packed first class seats and the overall 80 percent occupancy.

Maginley added that the passenger load out of Antigua will not only include travellers from Antigua, but those from Montserrat, Dominica, and other islands.

Antigua's American Airlines Country Manager Cathy-Ann Edwards said, "We celebrate this flight. This is indeed the fruit of partnership."

Edwards said Antigua is now strategically placed as the hub to two of the Unites States' main gateways - JFK and Miami - with the addition.

Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer said the flight now strengthens Antigua's three-decade-old partnership with American Airlines, with the latter demonstrating its confidence in the destination's ability to deliver the passenger loads necessary to maintain such a direct link.

"The stakeholders are very important in this as well," he said. "This is a real partnership that is developing here." He added that the entire industry stands to benefit from.

But in the midst of the fanfare reception, the PM pointed out that there is always room for improvement where the product is concerned.

Further, he announced Antigua's interest in a direct connection from Boston.

The luxurious Carlisle Bay Resort will house the visiting agents during their stay.

Credit Alex Holder - Caribarena

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