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SIEFERT: V.I. AIRLINE WON'T WORK

If the Virgin Islands wants more air traffic into the territory, it will have to pay a major carrier for it. That's the opinion of Bob Siefert, who spent a year on a government contract trying to increase air service between the islands and the U.S. mainland.
Siefert said talks with Northwest Airlines, Delta and TWA revealed the carriers were willing to service the Virgin Islands through Puerto Rico if they could be assured that a commuter airline would bring their passengers on to St. Thomas and St. Croix. Currently American Airlines affiliate American Eagle has that commuter route pretty well monopolized.
TWA and United Airlines also talked about guaranteeing a weekly number of flights if the territory subsidized them a few million dollars, Siefert said.
To Siefert it makes more sense to pay a maior carrier for service than to invest in setting up a Virgin Islands airline.
Gov. Charles Turnbull's administration is mulling a renewed proposal from Ralph Blanchard, formerly of St. Thomas and now living in Florida, to set up a small V.I. airline. Blanchard is seeking support from the government as well as from the private sector.
Siefert said other islands that operate hometown airways — including Jamaica and Aruba — have lost millions of dollars on them.
The new administration may not be interested in Siefert's advice, however. His contract with former Gov. Roy L. Schneider ran out Feb. 9 and it was clear long before that that it would not be renewed.
A former hotel manager, Siefert is now in business for himself, selling Ital MA.D.E. coffeemakers through his recently created Royal Arrow Espresso Coffee Co. He has the franchise for the British Virgin Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
He said it's easy to sell the idea to island restaurants that want to offer customers a specialty drink that is relatively cheap to make.
"Anything you can mix with liquor will sell in St. Thomas, and I'm sure it's the same on St. Croix," he said.

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