June 15, 2005 – Tourism Commissioner Pamela C. Richards, along with an entourage of government officials, stood out on the tarmac of Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on Tuesday, eagerly awaiting passengers and then wishing them a warm "Welcome to St. Croix."
Richards and company were there to greet the new arrivals on U.S. Airways inaugural flight 457 from Charlotte, N.C.
The passengers looked a little confused at the unusual welcome but seemed generally pleased for the extra attention. Also greeting passengers were Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards, Sen. Neville James, and Michael Thurland, representing Congresswoman Donna Christensen.
The occasion of the special greeting was the expansion of U.S. Airways' weekly service from Charlotte, originating in February 2003. The Tuesday flight was added to respond to increased demand for St. Croix as a summer destination. Both the Tuesday and Saturday flights, on Airbus' A319 aircraft, are scheduled to end August 16.
The flight didnt just bring visitors to the island — some residents were part of the inaugural flight, too. Patty Kenses and her husband, Daniel, were returning from visiting their Christmas tree farm in South Carolina. They were traveling with their sons, Alex, 8, and Danny, 11. "It was a beautiful flight," Patty said, "Its very convenient."
The aircraft, which has a capacity of 120 passengers, carried 64 passengers to St. Croix on Tuesday.
After greeting the flight, a jubilant Richards addressed a small gathering of officials during a brief ceremony in the airport's cruise ship lounge.
"Usually in the summer, the flights decrease, its good to see them adding flights," Richards said. "This airlift is critical to the economic survival of the islands, especially St. Croix."
Lt. Gov. Richards then called the occasion a "victory for the Virgin Islands. Its just another signal that we are growing rapidly."
Sen. James, chairman of the Economic Development, Planning and Environmental Protection Committee said he is looking forward to daily flights. "We have work to do," said James.
To commemorate the occasion, Richards presented U.S. Airways Capt. Ricky Lee with a handmade mahogany plaque and V.I Tourism tote bags, each packed with a bottle of Cruzan Rum, for the crew.
Richards told the captain to taste a bit of St. Croixs rum when he gets home, and when its done, he said, "come back for more."
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