See St. Thomas Airport Reopen After Hurricane Destruction

Sep 26, 2017

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It’s been a terrible hurricane season for the Caribbean. Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria — both Category 5 storms when they made landfall in the Caribbean — have caused catastrophic damage to the islands.

US territories in the Virgin Islands took direct blows from both hurricanes. St. Thomas and St. John were devastated by Irma before Maria passed nearby shortly after. St. Croix missed the worst of Irma, but got a direct hit from Maria, the 10th strongest hurricane ever on record, packing top sustained winds of 175 mph.

St. Thomas, USVI, Sep. 13, 2017--Damage from the category 5 storm Hurricane Irma is immediately apparent when you land at the Cyrile E. King Airport. FEMA/K.C. Wilsey
Damage from the Category 5 Hurricane Irma is immediately apparent when you land at the Cyril E. King Airport. Image by K.C. Wilsey of FEMA.

US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) scrambled first responders to the stricken islands to provide support and relief. And despite massive damage, recovery efforts are already showing.

San Juan, P.R., Sep. 8, 2017--VA Task Force 2 USAR waiting for available transport to St. Johns and St Thomas to aid survivors of Hurricane Irma. FEMA/K.C.Wilsey
Virginia Task Force 2 Urban Search & Rescue waiting for available transport to St. Johns and St Thomas to aid survivors of Hurricane Irma. Photo by K.C. Wilsey of FEMA

While “mercy” or “rescue” flights have been operating out of the St. Thomas airport (STT) since just after the storm, we now have a re-opening date for the airport. The Virgin Islands Consortium reports that commercial flights will resume from STT on Thursday. However, it looks like flights might resume even earlier than that. Delta has a scheduled commercial flight from Atlanta (ATL) to STT Wednesday morning. With fare caps in place, the full-fare nonstop flight costs just $199 before taxes:

ATL-STT September 27

Officially, American Airlines’s STT operations remain suspended with no reported date of restarting. However, there looks to be a one-off flight from Miami (MIA) to STT on Thursday — with just one seat left. There are no other scheduled AA flights to STT through the end of the month.

MIA-STT American Airlines

In order for recovery flights to start, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) flew in a mobile air traffic control tower. There’s no word on whether this “tower” will still be in operation when commercial flights resume.

FAA-StThomas-Mobile-Tower-5
Image courtesy of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Travel Waivers

While the airport is reopened to commercial flights, St. Thomas has been severely affected by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria. Considering this, airlines issued wide-open travel waiver dates for flights to St. Thomas (STT). If you have an upcoming trip to St. Thomas, here are your options:

American Airlines

  • Original travel dates: September 5 to April 2, 2018
  • Must have bought your ticket by September 18, 2017
  • Rebook travel anytime between September 23, 2017 to September 30, 2018
  • You can’t change your origin or destination city, and you must rebook in same cabin or pay the fare difference.
  • This means you can only make free changes to your dates for flights to/from St. Thomas. To change your destination, the airline is charging a difference between the fare you paid and the current fare for the new flights.

Delta

  • Original travel dates: September 5 to April 2, 2018
  • Ticket must be reissued by: October 31, 2017
  • Rebooked travel must begin no later than: September 27, 2018
  • When rescheduled travel occurs beyond September 27, 2018, the change fee will be waived. However, a difference in fare may apply. Final travel must be completed by end of ticket validity, one year from date of original issue.
  • If travel cannot be rescheduled within these guidelines, customers may cancel their reservation and apply any unused value of the ticket toward the purchase of a new ticket for a period of one year from the original ticket issuance.
  • In addition, Delta is waiving all pet fees for flights to/from STT through September 29, 2017

JetBlue

  • Original travel dates: September 5 to January 15, 2018
  • Must have bought your ticket by September 10
  • New flights must be rebooked by Sunday, October 15, 2017
  • Rebook travel anytime through January 15, 2018
  • To rebook travel or request a refund online, click here. If you are already checked in for your flight, call JetBlue at 1-800-JETBLUE (538-2583) for assistance with rebooking or a credit.

Spirit Airlines

  • Original travel dates: September 5 to October 31
  • Modification charge/fare difference waived through: November 15
  • After this date the modification charge is waived, but a fare difference may apply.
  • Customers can make changes to their reservations by going to the Manage Travel page or calling Spirit at 801-401-2222.

United

  • Original travel dates: September 5 to April 2, 2018
  • Tickets must be reissued by: October 31
  • The change fee and any difference in fare will be waived for new United flights departing between September 5, 2017, and April 2, 2018, as long as travel is rescheduled in the originally ticketed cabin (any fare class) and between the same cities as originally ticketed.
  • For wholly rescheduled travel departing after April 2, 2018, or for a change in departure or destination city, the change fee will be waived, but a difference in fare may apply. Rescheduled travel must be completed within one year from the date when the ticket was issued.

Featured image by FEMA.

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