A test flight (above) landed at Beef Island on May 25 in preparation for the launch of daily flights between here and Miami today. (Photo: P. BRIDGEWATER/GIS)

As the territory prepared for the launch today of daily direct flights between Beef Island and Miami, a test flight that landed on May 25 was dubbed a success.

When an American Eagle plane came in for a smooth landing at the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport, Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley and other government officials cheered from a reception area set up near the runway.

After the crew disembarked, Dr. Wheatley presented them with gift bags from the BVI Tourist Board.

“Welcome to the BVI,” he said, adding, “We hope that you make many trips to the beach.”

Later, Dr. Wheatley toured the plane with Communications and Works Minister Kye Rymer.

“Next week, the minister and I will be passengers on the plane,” Dr. Wheatley said. “It’s going to be historic, and we’re looking forward to it.”

American Airlines test flight
Virgin Islands leaders pose with crew members aboard the test flight. (Photo: GIS)
Today’s launch

The daily service is scheduled to launch today with similar fanfare when the first regular passenger flight arrives.

The service is already proving popular, Virgin Islands officials have said.

Due to high demand, American Airlines added five extra flights spread throughout the month, Mr. Rymer announced recently in the House of Assembly.

In addition to the regularly scheduled daily flights — which will depart Miami at 10:25 a.m. and Beef Island at 2:30 p.m. — one extra round-trip will be offered today and on June 3, 9, 16 and 30, according to Mr. Rymer, who didn’t announce the departure times of the additional flights.

“I invite our entire territory to the airport on the first of June,” he added. “Walk with your flags; walk with your families, friends. Let’s give them a [VI] welcome when American [Airlines] lands here in the territory.”

400-plus arrivals weekly

The direct service is expected to bring more than 400 new arrivals to the territory each week in a major boost to the tourism economy, officials have said.

“I am happy that there will be greater accessibility, affordability and convenience, which will serve as a catalyst for enhanced opportunities to expand our tourism product,” Dr. Wheatley said.

“I am anticipating that restaurants, hotels, cultural artisans and transportation services will benefit from this initiative, which will impact the territory’s overall gross domestic product.”

The flights will be offered aboard 76-passenger Embraer E175 airplanes. American Airlines said in a Dec. 2 statement that the “seasonal” service will “start on June 1, 2023, and will run through the summer, restarting again in November.”

Hurricane season

That schedule appears to suggest that the airline plans to suspend flights during the height of the Atlantic Hurricane Season, which starts in June and lasts through November.

The last day of summer will be Sept. 23, but the airline did not give a specific window for pausing the service.

Previous attempts

The launch of the service follows more than 10 years of unsuccessful attempts by successive government administrations to secure direct flights to the United States mainland — and vigorous debate about whether such flights were even possible without a major airport expansion.