29 August 2010

Restrictions on Puerto Rico-owned Airlines Condemned

US Federal Aviation Administration's “power abuse” denounced

by Inter News Wire Service

The National Independent Hostonian Movement denounced that the (U.S.) Federal Aviation Agency prohibited Vieques Air Link and Flamenco Air from transporting passengers to the municipality-islands of Vieques and Culebra. They allege that both airlines can only provide services for chartered flights.

NIHM co-president Héctor Pesquera, condemned this intervention as an “imperialist meddling, an attack against our citizen’s freedom to move between the municipality-islands and the main island. It is an abuse of power that demonstrates, once again, the negligence of Puerto Rico Governor) Fortuño’s government dealing with defending what is ours.” Pesquera informed that both “mortally wounded” airlines distributed layoff letters to more than 100 workers, who will now increase the unemployment rates.

He added that the FAA’s prohibition has the purpose of handing over the flight routes of both Puerto Rican airlines to Cape Air, a North American airline who offers regional services to the states of New England and New York, as well as to the Florida Keys, the Caribbean and Micronesia.

In addition, Pesquera said that Cape Air is already working in the Caribbean, transporting passengers from Puerto Rico to St. Thomas, St. Croix, Anguila and Tortola, and additionally offering transportation from San Juan, Ponce and Mayagüez to Vieques.

“It (Cape Air) just needs to move to Ceiba in order to begin flying the routes that, up to this day, had belonged to the Puerto Rican airlines,” he assured.

Flamenco Air and Vieques Air Link are purely Puerto Rican businesses that have been transporting passengers between the municipality-islands and the main islands for years. Vieques Air Link began operating in 1965 and was able to overcome the loss of its airplane fleet after Hurricane Hugo in 1989. In 2008, it started to use the José Aponte de la Torre Airport in Ceiba, which reduced to about seven or eight minutes the flying time from Vieques to the main island. On the other hand, Flamenco Air has been flying between Culebra, Vieques, the main island, the Lesser Antilles and the Dominican Republic since 1998.

According to the NIHM, the FAA’s determination will only serve to aggravate the transportation crisis suffered by residents from Vieques and Culebra, due to the deficiencies of the vessel services offered by the Department of Transportation and Public Works.

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