Good Morning, Good Morning! A lot of things have been happening in the world of travel recently. Low flight costs and the ability to FINALLY travel is has been resulting in a travel boom of epic proportions nationwide. We know that the USVI has been unusually slammed busy since basically New Years this year. In a normal year we would start to see a drop off around the Fourth of July. But not this year! The beach parking lots are still absolutely packed and accommodation and rental car availability are both slim to none. However, it is not just the USVI seeing this impact. The Transportation Security Administration reported a record setting number of passenger screenings this weekend. On Sunday 2,238,462 million people made their way through TSA around the country.
The impact of this travel boom was bound to rear its head eventually. And this past Sunday and Monday, thousands of travelers were stranded across the country as both Spirit and American Airlines surged with cancellations and delays.
One of American Airlines’ major hubs is the Dallas Fort Worth airport. The considerably large transportation hub laid, on Sunday, under two inches of rain and intense thunderstorms for most of the day on Sunday, resulting in nearly 25% of DFW’s flights being canceled. On Monday, the weather had cleared but an additional 300 flights were canceled or delayed at DFW yesterday as a result of the conditions and cancelations over the weekend.
American Airlines cited this unfortunate natural event as the cause for 283 of their canceled flights on Sunday. An additional 947 were delayed while about 80 were diverted to other airports.
Spirit, on the other hand, while also citing weather as one of the key causes for their immense number of canceled, relayed and redirected flights on Sunday and Monday, also said that “unspecified operational challenges” were at the root of the problems.
“We’re working around the clock to get back on track in the wake of some travel disruptions over the weekend due to a series of weather and operational challenges,” said Spirit Airlines spokesperson Erik Hofmeyer. “We needed to make proactive cancellations to some flights across the network, but the majority of flights are still scheduled as planned.”
Nationwide, Spirit Airlines canceled 165 flights on Sunday and 277 on Monday. Additionally, the major carrier experienced delays on 40% of their flights (341 total) on Sunday and 159 on Monday. So, if you were traveling to or from the USVI this past weekend, know that you are not alone in your travel woes! Even this morning, according to Miami-based news station, “Local 10,” reported that an involuntary “slumber party” at the Fort Lauderdale airport last night is currently resulting in huge lines at the Spirit counter. With a lone attendant manning the desk.
Ok, so takeaways on this. First, please, remember that this issue is much larger than you or the poor person working at the counter. The airlines are also experiencing a staffing shortage amidst this crazy surge in travel! Be kind, be flexible, be proactive and understanding. Your flight is canceled or delayed and there is not much to be done about that. When I have found myself in these situations before (and, trust me, I have been stuck in Miami or Fort Lauderdale while trying to get home more times than I can count!), I often try to figure out what I can do to either help my personal situation myself OR make myself feel a bit better about it (the airport bar? 🙂 )
Second, that proactive part: Check the flight trackers before you head to the airport. If you have a bit of flexibility with your schedule, maybe call the airline ahead of time to see if they will switch you for free. If you aren’t yet at the airport and your flight is delayed, you are not yet a part of their larger problem. Post-Irma, I had a flight out to go get my dog who had been staying with my parents in the states while the craziness was going on. I called American Airlines the morning of and told them my flight was canceled. The woman told me it wasn’t yet, but I knew EVERYTHING out of St. Thomas was being canceled or delayed in mid-October 2017. At closer look, she was like “wow, it is canceled!” I requested that she change my flight to Thanksgiving week so that things had a chance to smooth over. She gladly did so, for free, and I got to spend the holiday with my family unexpectedly. You never know how you might benefit if you aren’t afraid to politely and kindly ask 🙂
Third: I DID check the Spirit flights into STT this morning. And all of those arriving today from Orlando and Fort Lauderdale are currently on time (as of 9:00 this morning). But, I’d advise to be wary if you are flying through Fort Lauderdale or Dallas this week as the airlines are still experiencing high volume and delays. So, be proactive and, in the event of a delay, be kind and as flexible as you can. I, personally, am not envious of the job that these poor folks at the counters are doing this week!
Ok, so, here’s some good news! Love City Car Ferries (Grand Vic and Captain Vic) are now offering an extended car barge service. So, if you get in a little later than expected due to a delayed flight or it takes some unscheduled time to get your rental car, you may still make the boat! Love City Car Ferries, Inc. announced on July 28, 2021, that they will now be offering an after hours one way fare due to heavy volume on the last scheduled barge of the day.
Many times, Love City Car Ferries round trip ticket holders and one way passengers without a ticket will be scrambling to make that last boat of the day back to Love City.
If you are a ticketed passenger, it is our duty to ensure, to the best of our ability, that you are returned to your port. If you have an unused return ticket you would simply turn in your yellow return ticket, at no additional cost to you. However, for passengers without a Love City Car Ferries, Inc. ticket, the fare will be $75 for one way trips beyond the last departures from both islands: 6:15 PM from St. John and at 7:00 PM from St. Thomas. – Love City Car Ferries, Inc.
I would not necessarily advocate for “abusing” this service. Especially from the high volume side at Red Hook. But it is some GREAT peace of mind for those of you arriving on a later afternoon flight with a rental car on St. Thomas! To book this ticket in advance, please visit their website.
And finally, another COVID-19 update about what to expect on island and what to do to get here….
On Saturday afternoon, posts began to circulate on Facebook about several Havensight, St. Thomas businesses receiving an unscheduled visit from the COVID-19 task force the night before. Business owners’ reported some undocumented changes to the restaurant and bar regulations as reported to them by the task force. St. John business owners reached out to me and posted on Facebook inquiring about the new rules so that they could be in compliance. Outside of the first hand accounts from St. Thomas, we were all in the dark, until the Governor’s Press Conference yesterday.
Governor Bryan reported that he had also received calls over the weekend in regards to these “changes” in COVID-19 regulations. His response: There are no changes. But there will be added enforcement to the current mandates as outlined below:
- Mass gatherings are limited to 100 people in a space.
- Restrictions against group gatherings, picnics, parties, camping and DJ’s, DJ equipment or bands at our beaches still remain in effect.
- Restrictions on cooking, grilling and barbequing at beaches remain in effect
- Restrictions on the operations of nightclubs are still in effect. Nightclubs may operate as a bar if they have seated service.
- The initial rule to allow for operation with seated service only (in bars and restaurants) has not changed.
- Cabarets remain closed
- Still in effect is the restriction on the sale of alcohol past 11pm and a requirement for bar and restaurant establishments to close at midnight.
- There is still a requirement for patrons seated at the bar in a bar or restaurant establishment to be seated at least four feet apart and those patrons wear their masks when not seated, eating or drinking.
- Bar and restaurant establishments are still limited to 75% of their seating capacity or 100 customers, whichever is less.
- In-house music is allowed.
- Live music and DJ entertainment is allowed in licensed establishments with social distancing requirements and must stop by midnight.
- Pool tables and games are allowed, but users must wear a mask.
- NO DANCING 🙁 allowed by anyone: Not patrons, not staff.
- A territory wide mask mandate still remains in effect for all public spaces where social distancing is not possible and in all businesses.
This enhancement on the enforcement of the rules and regulations by the COVID-19 task force this weekend follows a surge in positive COVID cases in the territory, record breaking hospitalizations from the virus and nine deaths related to COVID-19 over the past two weeks. Just yesterday, the CDC added the USVI to its “very high” COVID-19 risk level list of destinations. According to the CDC designation of “Level Four: Covid-19 Very High,” means people who travel to these destinations should be fully vaccinated first. Destinations that fall into this category have had more than 500 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days. Currently, the USVI has 255 active cases, four of which are on St. John.
I want to touch on one additional question that I keep seeing EVERYWHERE:
The travel testing requirements for the USVI have not changed. Even if you are fully vaccinated, you still need to clear the USVI Travel Portal with either a negative COVID-19 test taken within five days of commencement of travel OR a positive antibody test administered within four months of commencement of travel.
Let’s face it, travel is what we ALL want right now. Personally, our recent sailing trip to Grenada on Asante fueled my spirit. I know how important it is to get away to that place that makes you shine from the inside out. I know that, for many of you, St. John is that place! For now, we are still open and ready for you with open arms. Just please be aware of the above rules and regulations put into place by our Government that have been designated in order to keep our residents safe and keep the stress of this virus off of our fragile healthcare infrastructure. Come to St. John, and ENJOY your time in this precious place. But please be mindful of the policies in place that have helped to keep the territory and our small businesses open and thriving for the past year while many of our sister islands’ economies have suffered immensely in comparison.