Christmas in April

Villa rental rates drop after April 15 and bring a swarm of bargain hunters to the island, according to one management company owner.  The crush of people is similar to that at Christmas time.  While the impact on St. John’s beaches and restaurants is one thing, the effects at the St. Thomas airport are quite another.

Returning Saturday on a 12:25 p.m. US Airways flight, it took 90 minutes to get out of the cab, checked in at the airline counter, to begin winding through an un-guided, hydra-headed, conga line of people – with baggage – into the Customs area, through another line to get to an inspector, drop bags at one of several x-ray machines, then to another ID and boarding pass check, before getting into line to take off our shoes, put carry on bags on the belt, and walk through the metal detectors. 

The process took so long that our plane was 30-40 minutes late departing because ticketed passengers were still not through security at take off time.

Coincidentally, a reader, Carol, posted a relevant comment over the weekend.  She had a similar experience: "We’ve just returned from our 15th visit to STJ and never before have we experience the check in chaos that we encountered at the airport-lines snaking the entire length of the terminal and doubled back causing flight delays, children exhausted, people cranky."

Moral of the story … when the attendant welcomes you to St. Thomas and tells you to be at the airport two hours before your return flight, it may pay to follow that advice.

7 thoughts on “Christmas in April”

  1. In the past we’ve found that the baggage folks who offer to help you (for $3 per bag, or something like that) are really worth it. They load your luggage on a cart and get it right through the scanners, no waiting. Even at $5 per bag, it’s worth not ending your trip with aggravation.

  2. Here’s the problem with that: It’s unfair.
    The porters wheel the paying customers’ bags into the Customs pen and then insert their people into the line.
    Those people, knowingly or unknowingly are cutting ahead of people who may have been in the conga line for as long as 45 minutes. That’s not right.
    Sometimes the “common folk” object and try to block the cutter-inners. That creates an unpleasant situation for everyone.
    If you want to hire a porter to carry your bags because you’re more comfortable that way, fine.
    But it’s not right to use the porters – who shouldn’t be allowed to do it, anyway – for elitist treatment.

  3. If the St. Thomas authorities were smart, they would over-staff the TSA security check at peak (12-5) time every day. It shouldn’t be considered helping people leaving the Island; they are putting a positive last impression in a visitor’s mind that will bring them back for another visit.

  4. Frank, you will probably be glad to know that on my last return trip i utilized the porter as usual, but the “cutting in line” has ceased. the porter now has to wait until you proceed through the line. airport management definitely needs some help in providing better customer service. i have missed flights standing in line.

  5. The fastest solution is to pack very light into just two carry-ons (roller bag + day pack) and then print your departure Boarding Passes at Connections in Cruz Bay 24 hrs in advance for $3. You can then avoid the entire Airline counter scene and walk right into Customs! Repeat visitors learn all the things the did NOT use on their last trip.

  6. The past three winters my wife and I have spent a couple of months on St. John and after our first stay it became clear that sending all of our luggage ahead was definitely the thing to do. Just pack up everything you will need and send it to yourself in care of the Mail Center at the Marketplace. The total cost of sending a 30 pound box, utilizing the USPS, including insurance, is around $65.00, and the Mail Center charges a few dollars for holding it. Perhaps I’m putting too much faith in the USPS, but it certainly is convenient checking in on-line and not having to think about our bags or those huge lines. So far it has worked out well and I will continue doing it until we’re nude on St. John because the Post Office lost our boxes.

  7. I just flew out of St Thomas last Tuesday. I arrived more than 2 hours early and was amused by a woman who came rushing up to the counter, passing all others, to insist she had to get on her flight to Philly. When she was ignored because the agents were helping others who had waited in line, she became loud and abusive. She was then told that the flight had already left. She had arrived exactly 10 minutes before takeoff! What was she thinking?! The agent offered to book her on the flight the next day but she continued to insist she had a first class seat and had to be on that day’s flight. I left for customs about then and I felt very sorry for the ticket agents. Please arrive early for flights and use good manners!!

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