Reportedly American Eagles – owned by American Airlines – and Carnival Cruises have both shown interest in restarting routes to Aruba, canceled in the past. American Eagle flew from San Juan, Puerto Rico non-stop to Aruba, while Carnival Cruises included Aruba as a port of call on its very popular Southern Caribbean itinerary, with home port in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
American Eagle reportedly had two major reasons for stopping San Juan – Aruba. Firstly, the giant air carrier was upset about the incentives given by Aruba airport to rival JetBlue with their inaugural flight New York City – Aruba a few years ago. American claims that they are the oldest American airline serving the island for over four decades without incentives. Additionally they we’re disappointed about the major delays the San Juan-flights had to endure due to the Central Air Control in Hato, Curacao.
Carnival Cruises on the other side approached the island government and ask for incentives to keep coming to Aruba, due to the rising oil costs. In that time oil prices were hovering near record highs. Local officials declined to grant any incentives, where after Carnival Cruises decided to kick Aruba out of its Southern Caribbean itineraries. Carnival still offers Southern Caribbean cruises, mostly to Eastern Caribbean islands.
This issue has been very much politicized due to the involvement of local political parties. Next month on September 25th Aruba goes to the polling booth to elect representatives for a period of four years. Recently a delegation of the main opposition party traveled to South Florida and allegedly met with high officials from both American and Carnival. Party officials claim they’ve reached some sort of an understanding with both companies to restart service to Aruba. Neither company has issued an official statement with about this issue. I don’t expect them to issue any statement about this matter either.
The loss in revenue and traffic has been relatively significant. It took the island quite some time to recover from the loss of Carnival Cruises for example. The ship Carnival Destiny was a steady visitor every Friday. Did they deserve incentives? I’m not too sure about that. Other cruise lines probably would have asked too. I think this island has to have a transparent policy on these matters and make sure to be as competitive as St. Maarten and Barbados, to mention a few.