More Time at the Airport May Be in Your Future

airport pic

For those of you traveling from the Cyril E. King Airport in the near future, we may have some bad news for you.

We received an email from a News of St. John reader last week alerting us of much longer “recommended” check in times at the airport. The email stated that American Airlines was now suggesting travelers arrive three hours prior to their flight … three hours?! That’s a long time at the airport.

We did a little research, and unfortunately, it is true. According to American Airlines’ website, travelers should arrive 180 minutes in advance when traveling from the St. Thomas airport. In addition, the check in counter will close 90 minutes prior to flight time. That means that if you need to check a bag or have a carry on but have not checked in prior to arriving at the airport, you will not be able to check in or check a bag.

Here’s the accompanying letter that was sent in the email we received: aa letter

And from what we hear, American Airlines is strictly enforcing this at the St. Thomas airport. If anyone has experienced this first-hand in the past week or so, please let us know.

On a happier note, I flew on JetBlue from St. Thomas last week and it was a breeze. I arrived about an hour in advance with no checked bags and breezed right through customs and security in less than 10 minutes. Oh and I didn’t have to fill out a customs form, which was great. Click here to read more about that. 

22 thoughts on “More Time at the Airport May Be in Your Future”

  1. I flew back with Delta on Sunday.
    10am ferry from Cruz
    10:45 arrive at the airport
    10 minute check in.
    15 minutes to go through immigration and security (hooray for no customs forms).
    What to do for two hours? Plenty of time for a few rums before getting the 1:35 flight…

    Although I would add that those two hours would be needed during the busy season..

  2. This doesn’t surprise me. We flew down in March on American and our departure was a debacle. While our previous departures out of STT have always been a little chaotic, this was a whole new level.

    We waited in a line that was not moving at all for 45 minutes to try and check our bags (get the luggage stickers). We had checked in on the kiosk, and just needed the stickers from the counter agent. After 45 minutes of ZERO progress in the line, it became clear the only way we would make our flight was if we played the porter game.

    The counter agents appear to be in cahoots with the porters, as once you “hire” a porter, the porters walk behind the counter, talk to an agent for 30 seconds, and then walk back with your luggage tags. They then somehow also get to bypass the line waiting to go into customs, and you get so step right up to a customs agent. We had to drop $50 on this scam in order to make our flight. And we had arrived the full 2 hours before departure time. There is zero chance we could have made the flight otherwise.

    It does leave a bad final impression of the USVI, with my final interaction being a coordinated shake down for $50. I can’t be the only one who had this experience. Anyone else?

    We are headed back down in December, going to try flying United and see if it makes a difference.

    • AA just bought United. They are the same company with same issues and policies. They were in the process of merging the airlines at STT in June.

        • Neither oft these posts are correct.

          United and Continental merged 5 years ago (still United airlines). American and US Airways are finalizing a merger now (still American Airlines). And just to round things out, Delta acquired Northwest a few years ago as well (still Delta airlines). As someone who flies regularly, let me assure you that there are significant differences to the airlines and their products. United gets my preference every time, but everyone is entitled to their opinion and preference. I love economy plus and the free streaming of TV, movies and music on board United. But that’s just me.

  3. Safe to say we’ll be steering clear of AA for future flights! We take off via Jetblue in mid January. Usually take take Delta or AA without any major issues in the past. This is unfortunate and hopefully not their fix to make the customer suffer due to their inadequacies.

  4. American Airlines is the worst. They feel since they are so big they can do whatever they want and people will just have to live with it. Corporate could do something about the 3 hour thing but they won’t. It’s easier to let the traveler suffer than correct the problem. Corruption is rampant in the USVI and it is no different at the airport check in counter. Coming from DFW, AA is one of the only options and there are no direct flights. They had a strangle hold on Southwest Airlines for decades with the Wright Amendment. Hopefully with that gone SWA will see the full flights to STT and start a daily route.

  5. So much for traveling on their touted “World’s Largest Airlines” after the merger of AA and US Airways. Another indication that bigger is not always better!

  6. It’s tough when you don’t have much of a choice in airlines! We gave flown U S Airways and gave been totally satisfied. We booked our flights for April with them and now everything has change because of the merger! Well pooo! Thanks for the info!

  7. Just read the part where the counter will CLOSE?? 90 minutes prior to a flight?
    Hard to believe… even for STT. The Porter thing is the easiest way to get through.
    I really don’t mind tipping for the chance to miss the long line and dragging luggage for the zig zag miles…. Now if I thought the “slow down” was a scam to force everyone to use a porter.. that would be another matter.

  8. Back in the day, we stayed away from two airlines, US Scare and American. With the merger, it makes things easier for me, just one airline to stay clear on–AA.
    I have flown Jet Blue for the last 4 times we have traveled from Boston. I think once we were 4th or 5th at the counter line. In June, there was no line at the counter when we got there… TSA line is what it is. Flight left on time with no issues
    Amereican shot themselves in the foot when they left San Juan as a HUB years ago. So OK american, I will keep that 3 hour rule in mind as I look out at your plane from my Jet Blue flight…..

  9. The airlines have suggested the three hour check in for years. It is a suggestion, We show up an hour and 15 minutes before and always have made our flight on AA and other airlines. Still cant handle it?

    Step 1 – travel light – Dont check bags -honestly what do you need on a trip to the VI? There are no dress codes at restaurants, you can rent snorkel gear that is nicer then the crap you own for cheap
    Step 2 – print your boarding pass – Dont have a printer – tons of businesses on St John offer this service
    Step 3 – go to the airport
    Step 4 – get on the plane and stop whining – you are likely in the top 5% of the worlds wealth, enough to enjoy a beautiful place on vacation or even to live here. Many people never vacation in their life, especially to a place like this

    • WOW! I just got an overdose of condescension. Step 1, some of us are serious divers. We don’t own any “crap,” and none of it is cheap. Carrying 30 inch long fins on a plane is not allowed. While it might happen from time to time, it could be a problem at the gate. If it is a problem at the gate, it will become the kind of issue that makes a flight late.

      Step 2, luggage tags are not available on line. Some day they may be, but not today.

      I am so tired of smug individuals telling me how my world should be as uncomplicated and black and white as theirs. When did disagreement and discussion become whining?

    • Wow what a jerk!
      Step 1 – If I want to check a bag that’s my business not yours. I don’t own crap dive/snorkel gear. Seeing how my life my depend on my gear, I’ll bring mine. Our normal vacations are 10-14 days. I want a few options to wear and don’t want to wash our clothes every other day.
      Step 2 – I agree here although I wouldn’t say there are tons of business’ that offer this service.

      You are probably part of the problem and not the solution. How long does the boarding process take now with so many people bring on bags that are not really carry-on. Cramming and jamming overstuffed bags to avoid the $25 fee. If we are all in the top 5% of wealth the $25 fee shouldn’t be a big deal. Hey you can fly first class with free bags.

      Stop YOUR winning and let everyone travel as they please.

      • ok call me a jerk,

        I was commenting on the complainers comments about how long it takes. If you want to check luggage, go ahead, but dont complain about having to check it. I travel in and out of the VI regularly and whether or not I check a bag it never seems to be any excessive wait over what I experience at other airports. This article reports a policy that has been in place for many many years. So if you are regular virgin islands visitors you know what to expect. Why complain?

        As for the top 5% comment, This site offers an anecdotal calculator to figure out where you stand in the world. Put your numbers in and see.


        If flying without checked bags, to print your boarding pass:

        Connections west
        Connections east
        Keep Me posted
        Post Net
        Scandic services
        If staying at a villa – Most property management companies will print for you
        If staying in a hotel – front desk will do it

        • I too am a regular visitor to the VI. I avoid some of the problems described by refusing to travel on Saturdays. That is apparently the worst day of the week to be at STT.

          It does take too long to handle baggage at STT. It is much worse than ANY US airport. It is also done at great risk. Many of us have been there, waiting for luggage, when the belt is broken and they can’t figure out a way to get the bags into the terminal. Then there is the time that I checked my 12 bottles of liquor on a Delta flight and they were never seen again. Delta had to admit that the boxes never got on the plane in STT. Someone in St Thomas had a great party or made a few bucks. The long lines at the counter have already been described very well above, so there is no need to review that again. By the way, the $20 I give to a porter on the way home are the best $20 I spend on the trip. We get an expedited path through the STT gauntlet, and a porter gets paid for doing a good job.

          Without complaints, why would the airlines do anything to fix the problem?

    • Having dealt with it for 15 years, I can’t help but believe you’re going to have some riots at the ticket counter when there are 150 passengers standing in line and the lone ticket agent sucks her teeth and says “closed” 90 minutes before the flight. But let’s just wait and see. Believe me, if they tell you to be there 3 hours early, some of the employees will take that literally and take the opportunity to deny you boarding simply to show you who got de powa. The entire mess smacks of Corporate making excuses for an inefficient, incompetent staff in order to gain more on-time arrivals and departures.

  10. I agree with the previous poster. Just got back last Spring, used American, didn’t check any bags, and had no problems whatsoever. Matter of fact, my flight down arrived half an hour early. I’m taking American again next year and I have absolutely no intention of showing up 3 hours early. I’ll show up an hour or so early with no bags to check. If there is a problem, that’s life.

  11. So now that we know how screwed up it is, why is it allowed to continue? Shameful
    that it has always been a problem. Have been in long slow lines at that airport several times over the past years. One time after finally getting to the agent she said my flight does not exist! Makes you want to stay home. Making a faster and more efficient system might just also allow for less expensive tickets ?

  12. 3 hours is ridiculous as is the service at AA at STT. I travel on AA every year because I am a frequent flier and the process at STT is a JOKE. How about fixing the problem instead of asking people to arrive 3 hours early??? And the problem isn’t security, it’s check in. ADD STAFF AT THE COUNTER = PROBLEM SOLVED. Has anyone actually been denied boarding arriving after the 90 minute cut-off?

    I can’t make out the email address in the letter. Please post it here so we can send Cathy Ann Edwards a note. Is it [email protected]?

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