UK airline scraps Caribbean flights

LONDON, United Kingdom, August 28, 2008 – XL Airways has scrapped all its Caribbean routes, blaming rising fuel costs and a slowdown in the United Kingdom (UK) economy for the move.

XL, a leading UK scheduled and charter airline, said that by November 3 it will end services to St Lucia, Barbados, Tobago, St Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Grenada. This means that St Kitts will have no direct flight from Europe and the country’s Minister of State with responsibility for Tourism, Ricky Skerrit was quoted on SKNVibes as saying that the XL cuts could result in a total loss about 7,000 passengers to St Kitts every year, including over 4,000 British tourists and hundreds of UK-based Kittitians and Nevisians.

Managing director at XL Airways, Martin Lock, said that in the last six months, long-haul routes have become much more expensive to operate and the airline has been losing money on them.

 “The Caribbean routes’ lack of profitability has been a challenge for XL Airways over recent months,” he said.

Paul Moss, managing director of the airline’s sister company Freedom Flights, said oil prices had added £100 (US$183) to the cost of every Caribbean seat compared with last year.

“Today’s market is in a period of regrouping, retrenchment and survival. You have to take some brutal decisions to remain profitable,” he said.

Minister Skerrit said that efforts are underway to find a replacement to fill the void left by XL’s departure.

“With XL’s help, we have been able to raise the profile of the St Kitts brand in the UK over the past few years and I am confident that market demand for our tourism destination will be the basis for driving future direct airlift arrangements to St Kitts from London,” he said.