air and cruise travel miscellaneous

Troubles Ahead For Airlines

World airline association, IATA, recently published a report that suggests that the airline industry is facing a difficult year 2008. According to IATA airlines could expect to see a further increase in oil prices, consequently increase in air fare is inevitable, however, this is difficult to implement due to fierce competition. American air carriers are expected to suffer more than European ones due to the fact that American companies have older and less fuel efficient fleet.

Impact on Aruba

Aruba is reportedly a lucrative destination for many airlines, with relatively little competition on direct flights. The destination with the most competition is New York – Aruba. American Airlines and JetBlue are the major carriers from New York, where in the weekends US Airways, Continental and Delta add some flights from New York as well.

The further rise in fuel cost and ticket cost is obviously going to have an impact on travel in general. The precise impact on Caribbean travel, more specifically Aruba travel, has yet to be determined.

Quick news

American Airlines announced a while ago that it was canceling the daily flight with the Boeing 757 from San Juan, Puerto Rico and is replacing it with American Eagle’s much smaller propeller aircraft ATR42. Apparently American wasn’t too pleased with the performance. Not only the load factor was an issue, perhaps more importantly, the frequent delays which the San Juan-bound flights seem to suffer from were unacceptable, according to American’s local manager. Local authorities in turn blamed the central air traffic control center in Curacao for having some kind of boycott action against some flights. Naturally they have denied those accusations.

air and cruise travel

Cruiseship Season Full Ahead

Aruba is expected to receive less cruise ship passengers this season according the schedules released by the various cruise lines. Aruba lost a major cruise line, Carnival Cruises, recently and that gap have been partially filled by smaller cruise lines.

This season Princess Cruises (owned by Carnival Cruises) is becoming the largest cruise line to visit Aruba. Another cruise line that is making an impact is Holland America Line (owned by Carnival Cruises).

Notable is the coming of new cruise lines, which are more focused towards the European traveler. These ships choose Aruba as their turnaround port, which means that passenger start/finish the cruise.

Pullmantur Cruises is a Spanish tour operator that has a ship, Holiday Dream, stationed in Aruba. The company sends a Boeing 747 every week from Madrid to help fill the ship. Additionally Pullmantur sells a week stay in Aruba that the traveler can add-on to their week cruise.

Aida Cruises [in German] (owned by Carnival Cruises) is the latest cruise line to use Aruba as turnaround port. Actually, Aida is using Aruba for all their Caribbean cruises. Visit the website to see all the maps.

Following is the complete schedule for this month.

  • Tue 11 ADVENTURE OF THE SEAS 08.00 – 20.30
  • Wed 12 EMPRESS OF THE SEAS 07.00 – 22.00
  • Thu 13 CORAL PRINCESS 07.00 – 13.00
  • Thu 13 CROWN PRINCESS 08.00 – 17.00
  • Sat 15 HOLIDAY DREAM (TURNAROUND) 07.00 – 22.00
  • Sat 15 SEA CLOUD ( 1ST CALL) 08.00 – 18.00
  • Sun 16 VOLENDAM 12.00 – 23.00
  • Mon 17 ARCADIA 08.00 – 18.00
  • Tue 18 ADVENTURE OF THE SEAS 08.00 – 20.30
  • Tue 18 SEA PRINCESS 09.00 – 18.00
  • Fri 21 CONSTELLATION 10.00 – 20.00
  • Fri 21 VAN GOGH 13.00 – 21.00
  • Sat 22 HOLIDAY DREAM (TURNAROUND) 07.00 – 22.00
  • Sat 22 AIDAvita (TURNAROUND) 08.00 – 20.00
  • Sat 22 MAASDAM 10.00 – 18.00
  • Sun 23 ISLAND PRINCESS 12.00 – 19.00
  • Mon 24 AMSTERDAM 13.00 – 20.00
  • Tue 25 CROWN PRINCESS 08.00 – 17.00
  • Wed 26 GALAXY 07.00 – 19.30
  • Wed 26 EMPRESS OF THE SEAS 07.00 – 23.00
  • Wed 26 ADVENTURE OF THE SEAS 08.00 – 20.30
  • Wed 26 VOLENDAM 12.00 – 23.00
  • Fri 28 ISLAND PRINCESS 07.00 – 13.00
  • Fri 28 LEGEND OF THE SEAS 11.00 – 22.00
  • Sat 29 HOLIDAY DREAM (TURNAROUND) 07.00 – 22.00
  • Sat 29 BRILLIANCE OF THE SEAS 09.00 – 19.30
  • Sun 30 CORAL PRINCESS 07.00 – 13.00
  • Sun 30 C.COLUMBUS 08.00 – 24.00
  • Sun 30 CLUB MED 2 17.00 – 17.30(MON 31)
  • Mon 31 CRYSTAL SERENITY 08.00 – 17.00
  • Mon 31 OCEANA 08.00 – 18.00

air and cruise travel

Aruba Airport Improving

At the end of the nineties officials announced the start of an extensive reconstruction of Aruba’s airport, dubbed Beatrix 2000, named after Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands. The project took about three years to finish.

When the project was delivered people were pleasantly amazed with the newest architectural beauty, it was a building unlike anything else in Aruba and perhaps the Caribbean. It looked sleek and modern and surely was an improvement from before.

Well, the airport was indeed an improvement. The biggest improvement was the added capacity. The airport now could handle much more people, especially on those busy Saturday afternoons. Furthermore now the larger aircrafts could offload passengers via the tunnels which are obviously much faster than old fashioned stairs.

It wasn’t all great however. Critics didn’t seem to like it, they said it was too sterile and dull, which was all true. When you walked into the place is felt like a hospital. There wasn’t anything to do. The departure terminal was fairly empty and the seats in the waiting area were made out off cheap plastic, which was uncomfortable. To make matters worse the airport was losing money and had substantial debts.

Over the last 3 years the situation has been steadily improving. The debt was refinanced, contracts has been renegotiated, operational cost went down, new road markers, automated parking, Caribbean landscaping, runway currently being expanded etc.

Latest improvement was last week’s opening of the new shopping area. It promises to bring variety to the existing shopping. Now you have something to do while waiting for when it’s time to board.

Let’s hope that the prices are not going to be excessively high. Then again, we all know how airports are, it’s going to be excessive.

air and cruise travel miscellaneous

Weekend Recap

Following a recap of happenings over the weekend.

  • Spirit Airlines inaugurated its weekly flight from Fort Lauderdale last Saturday for the introductory price of $9 dollars each way. It’s the first time Aruba is connected directly with Fort Lauderdale since the demise of Air Aruba in the late 90’s.
  • US Airways started its winter schedule to Aruba with six flights on Saturday. Boston and New York once each, Philadelphia and Charlotte twice each.
  • NCL’s Norwegian Spirit was in Aruba on Saturday.
  • Aruba tourism spots were featured on both CNN and TNT over the weekend.
  • Coral Princess’ Island Princess was in Aruba Sunday afternoon which was its last stop before heading back to home port San Juan, Puerto Rico. It came previously from Cartagena, Colombia.

air and cruise travel

New US Passport Regulation Impact On Tourism

Starting January 2007 United States introduced stricter rules regarding air travel within the western hemisphere, the so called Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. The most important change is that all US citizens are requiered to show a valid passport upon entry on US territory.

In an earlier post I wrote about this new rule and the negative impact it might have on Caribbean tourism in general. Apparently the majority of US citizens don’t own a passport and US State Department can’t cope with all requests for new passports. This is the reason US officials postponed the rule until October 1st, 2007.

Aruba tourism officials announced today that the rule didn’t have a significant impact on tourism numbers thus far. People are getting their passports, just like the new rule requires. Additionally officials announced that tourism is up 4% in comparison to last year. This is a general figure as it’s not clear exactly what exactly is 4% up. Details will follow soon.

air and cruise travel

Cruise Season Started

Cruise Season Kicked Off

Adventure of the Seas visits all year

The cruise ship season started yesterday with the arrival of Princess Cruises’ Coral Princess. The season in the southern Caribbean runs from October to April. Aruba is not a cruise ship island, in the off season only Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas visits every other week.

The expectations for this season are slightly lower then last year’s. There are less ships scheduled to stop in Aruba, consequently the passenger numbers are expected to be lower as well. On the upside, expectations for ‘stay-over-visitors’ are higher then last year’s. As soon I get my hand on the official figures I’ll post them right here.

air and cruise travel miscellaneous

Car Rental Companies Shuffled At Aruba Airport

Car Rental Companies No More
Car rental companies removed their titles at the airport

In order to control quality of the service offered at the airport by car rental companies, the airport authority decided to change a few things.

Back in the 70’s, 80’s the few existing car rental companies like Cheshire in Aruba used to have a booth inside the airport, just by the exit-doors at the arrival terminal. There were only a few rental companies at the time and tourism wasn’t that big so this system worked. Incidentally there might have been a squabble between security and the car rentals because of bad parking in front of the airport, but things worked out.

Aruba’s tourism started to grow, naturally more rental companies opened and requested, and granted, a booth at the airport. It reached a point that there wasn’t any more space and the airport was growing itself and they needed that real estate themselves.

As a result they decided to build little offices across the street in front of the airport to rent out to the car rental companies. They build a bunch of them, over 20 offices. These offices were, and still are, highly lucrative for a rental company, not to mention for the airport. These little offices bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars each year for the airport.

Since about three years there has been a change in management. Aruba Airport is run by Schiphol Group (Amsterdam Airport in The Netherlands), and they send an executive to run things and he’s been very busy. He cleaned up the place. Financially and structurally the airport is in better shape. The new management wasn’t afraid to implement unpopular measures as a mean to reach important goals: profitability and continuity.

Management reviewed all contracts with suppliers, vendors, employees etc. The airport got a face lift, parking changed, big signs were installed, pesky taxi personnel is going to be checked more thoroughly etc.

And now it’s turn to take care of the car rental booths in front of the airport. Management is going to reduce the amount of booths from 20+ to 10. All companies that are interested must enter the bidding process and the 10 highest bidders get a space, thus win a concession for a few years. Rental companies need to comply with stricter rules regarding product and customer service.

This brings up some interesting questions. Is the airport going to get the same amount of money from the 10 companies that are returning as they got from the 20+ they had before? Apart from the bidding and rent is the airport getting a piece of the sales as well? Aruba airport already does this with the retail businesses inside the departure terminal. And are the car rental prices going to increase?

Within the next four to five weeks we will know more. Then all winning bidders will be known and we can learn more about the prices. The car rental companies that lost the bidding and don’t return can still do business at the airport and take advantage of an eventual price hike by the ten remaining car rental companies.