Since Hurricane Irma struck the Virgin Islands on Sept. 6, more than 1,500 people have left the territory via private charter flights or evacuation efforts facilitated by their home country.

But others who wish to leave didn’t have the means to charter a plane or the communication tools necessary even to learn about the evacuation efforts.

Many of them are still here, waiting to leave via a commercial flight. But they will have to wait a little longer.

No commercial flights have left the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport since Irma, but they could resume as early as next week, Deputy Premier Dr. Kedrick Pickering said during a press conference on Friday, Sept. 22.

“We had initially hoped to have commercial flights operating on Monday of this week, the day Maria intervened,” Dr. Pickering said. “We’ve suffered some setbacks with Maria — more specifically, the fence is down again and some other power issues. So while the airport is operational for private flights and charter flights, there’s still no commercial flights.”

He added that officials have not set a resumption date.

“As we sit here right now I cannot tell you that it will happen in a specific time,” he said. “We’re hoping in the coming week that commercial flights will be operational, and we’ll work diligently to make sure it happens.”

After Irma                             

With the help of the IAM Jet Centre, the airport reopened two days after Irma for private and charter flights only, Dr. Pickering explained.

“The opening of that centre allowed the airport to operate once the military was on the ground and were able to secure the premises,” he said. “As a result, a significant amount of aid has arrived through the airport, especially from the British and Canadian military — and those who were wishing to leave initially and were able to purchase tickets via private aircrafts certainly had to opportunity to do so, and quite a large number of persons have taken the opportunity to do just that.”

Asked about people who have purchased tickets online and flown out of the territory in recent days, Dr. Pickering maintained that no commercial flights have operated out of the airport since Irma.

“Inter Caribbean, LIAT, Seaborne — all of them have offered private charter flights since Irma, so if you see it that’s probably what it is,” he said. “But commercially operated flights are not operating just yet.”