The Board of Directors and Membership of the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce have expressed its deep concern with the lack of progress in repairing Cyril E. King Airport, following the destruction caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September. According to reports from the airlines and associated companies operating out of the St. Thomas airport, much still needs to be done to re-open the airport at full capacity.
Currently, only two gates at Cyril E. King Airport are operational, roof repairs are still needed, the air-conditioning is inadequate, mold is obvious on many walls and surfaces, flooring needs to be redone, and the baggage conveyer belt requires repairs. These are just a few of the areas that need immediate attention. The Chamber is also trying to confirm reports that no work has been done at CEKA in over ten days.
Sebastiano Paiewonsky Cassinelli, president of the Chamber, stated, “Tourism is the lifeblood of the Virgin Islands and, not only are our airports and sea ports vital to bringing visitors to our destination, our airports and seaports serve as an essential gateway for residents as well. The members of the Chamber realize that everyone in the territory is facing unprecedented challenges in restoring the community. However, some areas – such as the airports – must be given priority. We have repeatedly requested a meeting with David W. Mapp, Executive Director of the V.I. Port Authority, to review the status of the St. Thomas airport’s needed repairs and the timelines for completion. While he returned our initial call and promised to schedule a time, to date no meeting has been confirmed.”
Paiewonsky Cassinelli added, “Many of our airline partners have responded above and beyond the call of duty to assist this community. For instance, at its own expense, JetBlue operated seven flights into and out of St. Thomas to assist residents. Other airlines have acted similarly. However, our air partners cannot wait indefinitely for the St. Thomas airport’s rehabilitation. United Airlines has already informed its customers that it has suspended all flights into St. Thomas through April 8, 2018. We hope that immediate solutions to the airport’s infrastructure will prevent other airlines from following United’s example.”
The St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce and Sebastiano Paiewonsky Cassinelli, its president