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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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Weather Woes: Strong Winds Divert Flights to St. Croix, Affecting Caribbean Air Travel

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Strong winds sweeping across the Caribbean last Thursday prompted an unusual air traffic scenario, with several flights being rerouted, leading to an unexpected gathering of aircraft at St. Croix’s Henry E. Rohlsen Airport (HERA). This situation saw multiple American Airlines flights, initially bound for various Caribbean destinations, making an unscheduled touchdown on St. Croix soil.

Carlton Dowe, the Executive Director of the Virgin Islands Port Authority, reported that the rerouting was necessitated by the challenging weather conditions. Additionally, the wind disturbances caused some flights destined for St. Thomas to be diverted to Puerto Rico, further highlighting the day’s logistical complexities. Amid these changes, American Airlines and Spirit flights in St. Thomas faced delays, awaiting the green light for takeoff.

The wind’s force was so formidable that one aircraft, attempting to land in St. Thomas, had to redirect to Puerto Rico, while another chose to return to Miami. An American Airlines service was also canceled, emphasizing the significant disruptions travelers and airlines faced. “St. Croix became a haven for diversions intended for other Caribbean islands,” Dowe remarked, acknowledging HERA’s pivotal role in managing the day’s extraordinary circumstances.

Despite the upheaval, the day saw successful departures from St. Thomas, including a Delta and a Spirit flight. Dowe described the situation as “quite chaotic,” yet underscored that ensuring safety was the paramount concern for the Virgin Islands Port Authority throughout the ordeal.

By Friday evening, HERA hosted four American Airlines and one Spirit Airlines plane, a tangible testament to the preceding day’s disruptions. This event follows closely on the heels of a similar incident the previous Sunday, when American Airlines canceled a flight from St. Croix to Miami due to bad weather, highlighting the ongoing challenges that severe weather poses to regional air travel and the imperative of prioritizing safety above all.

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Lawsuit Filed Against Spirit Airlines After Serious Wheelchair Mishap at St. Thomas Airport

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In a distressing turn of events at Cyril E. King Airport, St. Thomas, a lawsuit has been initiated against Spirit Airlines following a grave accident involving a wheelchair-bound passenger. The case, originally lodged in the V.I. Superior Court, was transferred to the District Court of the Virgin Islands this Monday. Elisha and Sylvia Frazer, the plaintiffs in this case, both of whom rely on wheelchairs for mobility, claim their transfer onto a flight to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, resulted in a catastrophic incident due to alleged negligence.

The incident occurred on December 22, 2023, when the Frazers were being assisted onto their flight. They were using a lift operated by Worldwide Flight Services, which is also a defendant in the lawsuit. The Frazers contend that the lift, visibly marked with a maximum capacity of 1000 pounds, was excessively loaded. With six individuals aboard — four wheelchair users and two attendants — the load surpassed the specified limit. During the process of aligning the lift with the aircraft door, it was discovered too late that Elisha Frazer’s wheelchair was not secured. Consequently, he suffered a horrifying fall of over 12 feet to the tarmac, resulting in severe injuries.

Elisha Frazer’s injuries are described as life-threatening, encompassing extensive physical trauma, significant medical costs, economic loss, and emotional distress, impacting his overall quality of life. The lawsuit vividly recounts the anguish of Sylvia Frazer, who witnessed her husband’s suffering. Her requests to remain beside him were initially denied by airport personnel, compelling her to board the plane. It was nearly 45 minutes later before she was permitted to exit the aircraft and reunite with her husband.

The legal action accuses Spirit Airlines and Worldwide Flight Services of gross negligence and asserts that their actions, or lack thereof, directly contributed to emotional distress for Mrs. Frazer. Among the sought-after remedies are compensatory and punitive damages, the amounts of which are to be determined by the court.

This lawsuit shines a spotlight on the critical importance of adherence to safety protocols and the need for airlines and service providers to ensure the well-being of passengers with mobility challenges.

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VIPA Greenlights Fee Cut for Fly the Whale’s New Route to Puerto Rico and Showcases Major Territory-Wide Construction Initiatives

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At their recent assembly, the V.I. Port Authority Board of Directors took a deep dive into a myriad of pivotal topics ranging from expansive construction endeavors and fiscal reviews to lease agreement stipulations. A central point of discussion was VIPA’s active engagement in 21 transformative construction projects scattered across St. Croix and St. Thomas/St. John, representing an investment exceeding $115 million. Notably, the $31.6 million Cyril E. King Airport Parking and Transportation Center is on the brink of unveiling its first phase to the public this April, marking a significant milestone in the territory’s infrastructural development. The board also turned its attention to crucial runway rehabilitation projects at the airports on both St. Thomas and St. Croix.

A groundbreaking resolution from the gathering was the board’s strategic decision to support Fly the Whale’s introduction of a novel daily service connecting St. Croix with Puerto Rico. By slashing user fees in half for this new route, in line with VIPA’s 2014 initiative aimed at fostering route expansion and bolstering regional connectivity, the board has reaffirmed its commitment to enhancing the travel landscape within the Caribbean.

The assembly also served as a platform for Executive Director Carlton Dowe to shed light on the breadth and depth of VIPA’s construction initiatives. With 21 projects underway, split between St. Croix (10) and St. Thomas/St. John (11), the over $115 million investment underscores a steadfast dedication to fortifying the territory’s infrastructure. The Parking and Transportation Center at Cyril E. King Airport is especially noteworthy, set to open its doors soon, in conjunction with ongoing runway rehabilitation efforts at the islands’ airports.

Chief Financial Officer Anna Penn presented a financial update, announcing an impressive operating profit of $1.8 million in the fiscal year’s first four months, which outstripped initial forecasts. This fiscal resilience is further highlighted by the completion of several budget items under their projected costs, reflecting VIPA’s sound financial management.

The directors also delved into commercial lease agreements, particularly focusing on the Crown Bay building impacted by a recent fire. Dowe noted the ongoing assessments by the insurance company, leaving the timeline for re-occupancy of the building still up in the air.

The meeting wrapped up with discussions on pending permit applications and construction schedules, followed by a closed executive session where amendments to the United Steelworkers Collective Bargaining Agreement were approved, showcasing VIPA’s forward-looking approach to regional development and labor relations.

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