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Advance Notice by VIPA: Anticipate Travel Delays at Rohlsen Airport Post-Holiday Season

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Passengers formed extensive lines at Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024, as many prepared to leave the island. Photo by V.I. CONSORTIUM.

In a proactive move, the Virgin Islands Port Authority (VIPA) issued an advisory on Tuesday, alerting travelers about potential processing delays at St. Croix’s Henry E. Rohlsen Airport (STX). This advisory comes in the wake of heightened travel activity following the holiday festivities.

VIPA strongly recommends that passengers plan to arrive at the airport no less than three hours before their flight’s scheduled departure. This precaution is aimed at providing travelers with sufficient time to navigate through the necessary pre-clearance screenings comfortably.

The advisory is particularly pertinent as a significant number of travelers are embarking on their return journeys or continuing to other destinations after enjoying the post-holiday festivals in St. Croix. This influx is expected to result in extended processing times, and VIPA’s suggestion for early airport arrival is intended to minimize any potential stress for travelers.

Furthermore, VIPA advises passengers to keep in constant contact with their airlines for real-time updates on their flight statuses. Staying informed about any changes in flight schedules is crucial for travelers to adjust their plans accordingly and evade foreseeable delays.

Through this notice, VIPA aims to streamline the travel process for passengers during this bustling period at Rohlsen Airport, enhancing their overall experience.

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Cyril E. King Airport Unveils New Passenger Pick-Up Location Amidst Enhancements

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The Virgin Islands Port Authority (VIPA) has unveiled a strategic update concerning the passenger pick-up zone at Cyril E. King Airport (CEKA) on the bustling island of St. Thomas. Effective from Tuesday, February 27, travelers will be welcomed to a newly designated pick-up area located at the forefront sidewalk of the state-of-the-art Parking and Transportation Center.

To ensure a seamless and secure transition from the terminal to this temporary pick-up point, VIPA is set to introduce a pedestrian crosswalk alongside ADA-compliant ramps. To further enhance safety and facilitate smooth traffic flow during the airport’s busiest hours, VIPA’s dedicated police force will be on hand to guide traffic and assist passengers across the designated areas.

This initiative stems from the need to demolish the existing pick-up section adjacent to the terminal’s baggage claim to pave the way for the construction of two additional exit lanes, a move aimed at optimizing vehicular movement within the airport’s vicinity.

VIPA has issued guidance to travelers, urging them to expedite passenger drop-offs at the CEKA Terminal to mitigate congestion risks. It has been explicitly stated that parking next to the terminal is forbidden, and the public parking facility at CEKA will be temporarily closed until further notice.

Passengers are encouraged to plan their airport arrivals and departures with these adjustments in mind. For convenience, complimentary public parking has been made available near the former Island Beachcomber Hotel by Lindbergh Bay Beach, catering to the needs of travelers during this transitional phase.

Additionally, VIPA has allocated a parking zone for delivery truck operators servicing the CEKA, positioned along the terminal’s brick wall near Gate 11. The authority calls on the public to heed parking signage and the instructions of VIPA police officers, who will be actively managing traffic and ensuring public safety amidst the ongoing developments.

Looking ahead, the Parking and Transportation Center at CEKA is on track to partially open its doors for public parking in April 2024. This is part of VIPA’s comprehensive plan to elevate the airport’s infrastructure and service offerings, marking a significant milestone in the enhancement of St. Thomas’s aviation facilities.

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American Airlines Adjusts Baggage Fees in Response to Operational Costs

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American Airlines has announced an adjustment to its baggage fees, effective from Tuesday, affecting passengers’ travel expenses. Those flying in basic economy or main cabin classes will notice an increase of $5 to $10 for each checked bag. This adjustment, however, exempts active duty military personnel and passengers who purchase their tickets with an airline-branded credit card.

For domestic flights, including those to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the fee for the first checked bag will rise to $40, a $10 increase from the previous $30. The cost for a second checked bag is now set at $45, marking a $5 increase. American Airlines offers a $5 discount for passengers who opt to pay for their baggage online via the airline’s official website.

Travelers headed to Canada, the Caribbean, Mexico, or Central America will face a modest fee increase. The cost for the first checked bag is now $35, up from $30, and $45 for the second bag, previously $40.

This fee revision by American Airlines is part of its strategy to manage escalating operational costs. The airline highlights that these fee increases are the first to be implemented in over five years for some services. Notably, American Airlines is not alone in adjusting baggage fees. Earlier this month, JetBlue Airways introduced a $45 fee for checking a bag at the airport. Similarly, Alaska Airlines increased its baggage fees to $35 for the first bag and $45 for the second.

In comparison, other major airlines like Delta Air Lines and United Airlines continue to charge $30 and $40 for the first and second checked bags, respectively, for flights within the region.

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New Global Entry Mobile Application Debuts at Luis Munoz Marin International Airport

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The U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s San Juan Field Office proudly announces the introduction of the innovative Global Entry Mobile Application at the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport, offering a streamlined arrival process for approved travelers.

Roberto Vaquero, the director of field operations for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, highlighted the application’s role in enhancing security measures while simultaneously improving the travel experience for CBP’s trusted travelers. By utilizing cutting-edge technology, the application allows travelers to verify their identity through facial biometrics by taking a selfie. This selfie is then compared to an existing photo gallery for verification. Upon successful submission, the traveler receives a digital receipt, facilitating a swift passage through the primary inspection area without the need for Global Entry kiosks, as they present their mobile receipt directly to CBP officers.

CBP is committed to the ongoing evaluation and potential expansion of the app’s use across additional airports equipped for Global Entry processing, ensuring a broader reach of this advanced travel facilitation tool.

Available at no cost, the Global Entry Mobile Application can be downloaded from the Google Play Store or Apple App Store starting February 20, 2024. This initiative is part of the Department of Homeland Security’s Trusted Traveler Programs, which are accessible at numerous ports of entry across the nation, including all major airports and Preclearance locations.

Applicants for Global Entry must pass thorough background checks and an in-person interview before being granted membership. These stringent requirements are designed to maintain the program’s integrity by ensuring that members remain low-risk travelers. Any breach of the program’s terms leads to decisive enforcement actions and the possible revocation of membership privileges.

For those conditionally approved for the program, interviews can be scheduled online for the Enrollment Center at the Luis Munoz Marin International airport. This center welcomes applicants Monday through Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., and on Sundays from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Further details about the Global Entry program and other Trusted Traveler Programs by CBP can be found on the Global Entry website.

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