A WinAir ATR 42 plane landed in the territory on Saturday, marking the inaugural flight for a new route between Tortola and Antigua and Barbuda. (Photo: GIS)

The Virgin Islands welcomed the inaugural WinAir ATR 42 flight on Saturday, launching a new service connecting Beef Island with Antigua.

“This development is also expected to contribute to the boosting of tourism in the Virgin Islands and is in direct alignment with the National Sustainable Development Plan,” government announced in a statement. “The plan encourages the diversification and expansion of the tourism sector as a mechanism to facilitate economic development through encouraging foreign direct investment.”

The WinAir flight crew were met with a warm reception by government representatives including Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley and Transportation and Works Minister Kye Rymer. Farmer Moviene Fahie dressed in her traditional Virgin Islands costume — which includes a donkey and a basket of fruits — while steel pan drummer Akeem Stanley played music to welcome crewmembers.

Expanding options

The route comes after the territory celebrated another long-awaited win: direct flights between Beef Island and Miami.

As part of a broader expansion in the region, American Airlines commenced the route on June 1 with once-daily service.

Driven by demand, the airline later announced that it would add an additional five flights during the month of June.

Before the end of that month, the airline made another announcement: It will add a second daily direct flight starting Dec. 5.

Mr. Rymer and other officials have promised to continue working to expand flight options to the territory.