Irma: Air Canada resumes service, islands recovering

Irma: Air Canada resumes service, islands recovering
Soldiers, airmen and marines, with the help of U.S. Navy helicopters and crew, aid with Hurricane Irma recovery efforts this week.

Air Canada said that it was resuming normal operations to affected destinations following the passage of Hurricane Irma, with full service to Florida resuming today (Sept. 13). Regularly scheduled flights have also started to operate to most Caribbean destinations.

The airline said preparations were underway to resume its full schedule to Florida, including service to Miami, Orlando, Ft. Lauderdale, Tampa and the next regularly scheduled flights to Fort Myers on Friday, Sept. 15 and Sarasota, on Saturday, Sept. 16.

Although aircraft are very full on outgoing flights from Florida, Air Canada said that it was committed to adding extra capacity to transport customers who wish to travel.

Air Canada service to Havana, Cuba will also resume on Sept. 13, with flights to other destinations in Cuba remaining cancelled. Plans are in place to resume services to most destinations in the coming days – subject to the safety and security of airports and infrastructure.

Meanwhile, Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge have resumed scheduled service to other destinations in the Caribbean, including the Dominican Republic and Guadeloupe since Saturday, Sept. 9, and to Martinique, Haiti, Jamaica and Turks and Caicos since Sunday, Sept. 10. Other flights that were disrupted in the Caribbean will resume as regularly scheduled.

Many of the islands that were ravaged by the devastating storm have also issued updates on the progress of their recovery.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico’s tourism infrastructure has allowed the island to resume regular operations of hotels, sites and attractions, beginning this week. Over 3,000 tourists have been diverted to Puerto Rico over the past week from neighbouring Caribbean islands, with industry partners also mobilized to coordinate collections of supplies and donations.

“Today, nearly all hotels in Puerto Rico are operational and apt to continue receiving guests,” said Jose Izquierdo, executive director, Puerto Rico Tourism Company. “We’re very fortunate that it’s business as usual across the island and we’re already back on our feet.”

Marriott hotels including San Juan Marriott, Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel and AC Hotel by Marriott welcomed approximately 700 guests from St Thomas, St Maarten and St John, with Wyndham Grand Rio Mar in Rio Grande also welcoming approximately 300 guests from St. Thomas.

Staff members of FEMA are staying at the InterContinental San Juan, while hotels in the San Juan area including The Verdanza Hotel, Condado Plaza and Caribe Hilton have mobilized the local community to gather donations for neighbouring islands.

Antigua and Barbuda

A press release from Antigua and Barbuda stated that Antigua – which hosts 98 per cent of Canadian visitors to the islands – is up-and-running for tourists, and is a safe destination to visit. The smaller sister island of Barbuda, however, has been significantly affected.

“Barbuda’s current situation should not deter tourists from travelling to Antigua,” said Colin Skerritt, tourism director, Canada for the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority. “As tourism is an important revenue generator for the nation, travel to Antigua will aid in the rebuilding of Barbuda.”

The V.C. Bird International Airport in Antigua opened for all flights on Thursday, Sept. 7 and electricity was restored to the capital city, St. John’s, and most parts of the island. Most residential, business and hotel properties in Antigua remain unscathed, and the main roads have been cleared of debris and fallen trees.

Barbuda was heavily impacted by Hurricane Irma, which caused one death on the island. The storm also caused destruction or extensive damage to 95 per cent of buildings, including private properties and government facilities; the island’s hotel infrastructure was also damaged, but with less than 100 hotel rooms, the overall effect on tourism was minimal.

British Virgin Islands

The government of the British Virgin Islands is continuing to assess the damage sustained during Irma, with all travellers in need of assistance encouraged to consult with the BVI Tourist Board office.

Attention is being focused on ensuring that all remaining visitors to the islands are transported safely out of the territory, with staff to provide assistance in coordinating departures from the Virgin Gorda tourist board office and the National Emergency Operations Centre, operating out of Peebles Hospital in Road Town.

The Virgin Gorda Tourist Board office is located at Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbour, with current hours of operation 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. A curfew remains in effect on Virgin Gorda from 6 p.m. to 9 a.m.

Those who are concerned about the wellbeing of a relative or loved one who was in the territory at the time of the storm are advised to contact bvvidmirma@gmail.com – an email account monitored by the staff of the BVI Department of Disaster Management. Further information is also available at www.facebook.com/BritishVirginIs.

Bahamas

Airports are open in Nassau, Grand Bahama Island and on nearly all Out Islands, with international flights resuming – including service to some Florida airports. Ports have also reopened, allowing cruise ships to begin to return.

Throughout the major tourist areas – such as Nassau and Paradise Island, Grand Bahama Island, The Abacos and The Exumas, hotels are resuming normal operations and beginning to welcome more guests while visitors return to beaches and attractions.

Parts of the southern islands were more heavily impacted, with damage ranging from cosmetic to severe structural damage.

Anguilla

The island’s recovery is progressing well, with Seaborne Airlines bringing relief supplies yesterday. The Anguilla electricity company and other utilities are working to restore service, while the government is also committed to reopening schools. Gas stations and supermarkets are open for business, while hotels and villas are providing shelter and services.