Update on American Airlines’ 4 hour policy

American airlines logo The customer relations office of American Airlines is not on board with that notice from the St. Thomas AA people about your having to show up at the airport four hours ahead of departure. 

AA’s Debbie Mahan e-mailed a News of St. John reader saying, “In looking at our Web site, aa.com, it states … "(for) flights departing Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands, recommended check-in time is at least two hours prior to scheduled departure.” (It also says the baggage acceptance cut-off time is one hour.)

In other words, the “four hour” announcement about 11 days ago is not official airline policy. But, it is also not without reason.

Anyone who’s gone through check-in, Customs, and then TSA/Baggage screening at STT knows it’s a nightmare.  Random searches of carry-ons and suitcases sure can gum up the works.  (Here’s the TSA list of what’s not allowed in your checked baggage and which can set off alarms and stop the process.)

TSA is working in a fairly confined space with just a few X-Ray machines.  The work area can easily get inundated because so many flights bound for the mainland have scheduled departures between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.  The Inquiring Iguana has been told a ‘significant number” of pieces of luggage have been left behind as a result of such baggage screening crunches, insuring VI-vacationers arrive at their home airport with more than the glow of their tan wearing off after what may have been a great vacation.

The VI Tourism department, although publicly silent about the local American statement, has been talking with AA corporate about what the VI Port Authority can do to make leaving paradise less stressful.

6 thoughts on “Update on American Airlines’ 4 hour policy”

  1. My girlfriend and I took our first trip together to STT this year and were aghast at the line to leave. We both felt we knew the vacation was “over” and it was back to the hassles of normal life when we hit that line.
    We have readily discussed returning to the island every year, but since we saw this announcement we have been considering other options — including the British VI and Puerto Rico.
    I sincerely hope STT and the airlines can find a solution.

  2. As a family we love visiting St. John but the thought of trekking through the turmoil in St. Thomas to return home has us considering other vacation areas. (We’ve been there at least 8-10 times.) If anything could be done to alleviate the issue in St. Thomas it would be most welcome and we will return to St. John in a heartbeat!!

  3. I have been going to St John every year for more than 20 years, the St Thomas airport has reached an all time low. A year ago American changed our flight times without us being notified, (they said they did) and we arrived at the airport only an hour before takeoff. We explained to the agent what happened, and she said there was nothing she could do to help, all with a very arrogant attitude. In security both my wife and I were stopped, and searched, along with our bags. We missed our flight. Once we arrived in Miami, we left the secured area to have dinner, and were both stopped and searched while going through security again. Did the St Thomas agent tag us? We expect that to be the case. This year we decided to visit a differnt island rather than be subjected to this harrasment. We love St John, but it’s not worth the hassle anymore, until this kind of treatment stops.

  4. Remember the “old” airport days when you would check your bags in at the ticket counter, then have to go back to that long wooden rack and retrieve them again before heading to customs and USDA? Somehow, they never made it to the same place on the rack and you had to launch an all out search among the crowds and sweating bodies! No security problems then, however, since before 9/11. You’re right–it’s a zoo any day of the week!

  5. Greetings!
    We, too,are yearly visitors to St. John yearly, for decades. We are dismayed by the newest torment from American Airlines. The planes are filthy, and the Staff at STT airport are surly on a good day. It is incredible that travel from western Maryland to St. John is an 18 hr ordeal – imagine how we feel about spending 4 hrs at STT airport.
    It is a real labor of love to survive STT to come/go to St John. Dealing with the Ferry people has been bad enough, now this.We don’t know if we can continue to return to beloved St. John; it shouldn’t be an ordeal to get there and home.

  6. Last year, my husband and I had the first flight out of STT on AA at 7am, so we stayed in St Thomas the night before to get there for the recommended 2 hours before the flight. Of course, the ticket counter for boarding passes didn’t open until 6am; then the TSA didn’t open until 6:30am. After 20 years of visiting STJ, I tried to go with “island time,” but my husband almost blew a gasket! It wasn’t so much the “soon come” attitude, as the arrogance of the staff there. This year, we had a pleasant trip (including airport!) through Belize! (Only Miami was hell!)

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