Curacao airline grabs key Miami-Caribbean routes
By Paola Iuspa
Flights to the Caribbean, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic are increasing at Miami International Airport under the name Dutch Caribbean Airline, or DCA.
The airline, owned by the Island Territory of Curaçao, started April 1 to offer 10 flights a week to Latin America and the Caribbean, said Hubert La Croes, the carrier's general manager for the US & Canada. Until then, DCA was only flying from Curaçao to Amsterdam and Kingston.
Mr. La Croes said he expects to serve about 1,000 passengers a week heading to or from Aruba; St. Maarten; Kingston, Jamaica; Bonaire; Caracas, Maracaibo and Valencia, Venezuela; Paramaribo, Surinam; Port-au-Prince, Haiti; Port-of-Spain, Trinidad & Tobago, and Santo Domingo, DR.
Fares range from an economy round-trip rate of $206 to Curaçao to a round-trip business class fare of $603 to Curaçao, he said.
Miguel Southwell, assistant director for business development for Miami-Dade Aviation, said the DCA's new routes are similar to those previously owned by Air ALM airlines, which is no longer in business.
Mr. La Croes said his company studied the business and leisure market in South Florida before deciding that Miami was the "national gateway to South America and the Caribbean" and expanding its services.
The government of Curaçao bought Air ALM after the defunct carrier went bankrupt and renamed it in September, according to the website Caribbean Aviation. The airline was formally created in September 2001, DCA officials said.
DCA has also opened a Miami office at 1150 NW 72nd Ave. and has six employees, Mr. La Croes said.
The carrier is starting services at a time when tourism is returning to South Florida. Paula Lewis, manager for Latin America with Visit Florida, the state's tourism promotion agency, said visitors from the Caribbean and Central and South American are bouncing back to pre-Sept. 11 numbers rather quickly.
She said international tourism dropped 6.5% in the last quarter 2001 but it was not clear how much of the decline was due to a reduction in Latin American business.
"We are not completely back to pre-Sept. 11 numbers, but last month we saw a high increase," she said.
Ms. Lewis said Daytona Beach - followed by Tampa and Palm Beach - were the cities projected to have a faster recovery in tourism.
"On the other hand," she said, " Miami and Orlando could take a full year to completely recover their pre-September tourism level."