Caribbean Sun Airlines yesterday announced a two-phase shutdown of all flight operations. Phase one consists of the termination of all Caribbean Sun flights between San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The last flight between those two cities will take off Jan. 16. Phase two consists of the termination of all remaining flight operations and the closure of the airline’s operational hub at Luis MuÃ±oz Marin International Airport in San Juan. Caribbean Sun’s final day of flight operations is Jan. 31.
Caribbean Sun passengers holding confirmed tickets for travel between San Juan and Santo Domingo after Jan. 16 or tickets for travel to or from all other Caribbean Sun gateways after Jan. 31 will be re-accommodated on alternate service operated by Cape Air, Caribbean Airlines (formerly BWIA) or LIAT. In cases where alternate service cannot be arranged, passengers will receive full refunds.
Passengers are encouraged to call Caribbean Sun at 800-723-1111 for further details. Caribbean Star commenced merger talks with LIAT in October. “Competition in San Juan has always been very tough, but recent developments have created a no-win situation for us,” said Skip Barnette, president and CEO of Caribbean Sun and its sister carrier Caribbean Star. “Major U.S. carriers currently expanding service to the region are increasingly emphasizing nonstop service. The trend toward “˜over-flying’ San Juan has greatly diminished the strong demand we formerly enjoyed from connecting passengers. The local market is simply too small to sustain a profitable operation.”
Another factor in the decision to close Caribbean Sun is the recent re-certification of its sister carrier, Caribbean Star Airlines, under new Civil Aviation Regulations passed in Antigua and Barbuda by the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority (ECCAA). Last March, the ECCAA was upgraded to Category One status by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). In October, Caribbean Star was re-certified under the new regulations, enabling the carrier to consider broader expansion opportunities, including possible new service to U.S. destinations.
“When Caribbean Star was launched in 2000, it could not serve San Juan and other U.S. destinations, which, of course, hindered growth,” Barnette said. “Caribbean Sun was later launched as a completely separate U.S.-based airline to complement the Caribbean Star operation with its ability to hub out of San Juan and attract what was then a stronger market for connecting passengers. Now that Caribbean Star has the same advantages, we can realize some efficiencies and better focus our efforts.”
Caribbean Sun employs a staff of 215, the majority of whom are based at the airline’s operational hub in San Juan. In addition, 32 Caribbean Sun staff members are based at the airline’s corporate headquarters in Fort Lauderdale. Additional Caribbean Sun employees are based in destinations served by the carrier. A total of 195 employment positions will be eliminated as a result of the shutdown.
“It’s a sad day for us and for Caribbean aviation in general. It’s a sad day for our passengers. But, most of all, it’s a sad day for our dedicated staff who fought hard to build a great airline,” Barnette said.
The Caribbean Sun fleet is composed of four Dash-8 100 series aircraft, each with a 37-passenger seating capacity. The carrier serves nine gateways throughout the Caribbean with more than 161 weekly flights.
“Discussions are ongoing with additional interested parties toward deciding what will happen with Caribbean Sun aircraft and other assets,” Barnette said. For more information, visit www.flycaribbeanstar.com or www.flycsa.com