CBR
search
Travel

United Airlines planes land at their Newark Liberty Airport base in New Jersey, USA. (Photo: Business Insider)

United Airlines return to the Caribbean hits diplomatic, COVID-19 speed bumps

United Airlines planes land at their Newark Liberty Airport base in New Jersey, USA. (Photo: Business Insider)

United Airlines had last month announced plans to resume flights and roll out new routes and schedules across the Caribbean. However, those plans may have to be tweaked as the State Department of the United States of America has issued travel advisories and warnings for more than 20 Caribbean countries and territories.

United will return to the Caribbean in August as the airline moves to reopen routes following a slowdown amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo: Business Insider)

“Internationally, United’s August schedule will include a return to Tahiti and additional flights to Hawaii, the Caribbean and Mexico,” a release from the airline stated.

“Throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, United is expanding across each region with a total of 35 new routes for August,” it added.

By September, the company hopes to add another 20 new routes.

“International commercial flights and commercial vessels carrying passengers will not be permitted to enter our borders…”

Prime Minister of the Bahamas, Hubert Minnis

Among the destinations that United had set its sights on are: Puerto Plata, Punta Cana, Santiago and Santo Domingo in The Dominican Republic; Aguadilla and San Juan in Puerto Rico; Aruba; Belize City; Montego Bay, Jamaica; Nassau, The Bahamas; and St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands.

Keeping customers’ health a priority

At the time of the announcement, United Airlines underscored its commitment to the health and safety of its customers and its goal of delivering an industry-leading standard of cleanliness through its United CleanPlus programme.

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. (Photo via bakerjarvis/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Moreover, the carrier has partnered with Clorox and Cleveland Clinic to enhance its cleaning and health safety procedures — from check-in to landing.

“Demand is coming back slowly and we’re building in enough capacity to stay ahead of the number of people traveling. And we’re adding in flights to places we know customers want to travel to, like outdoor recreation destinations where social distancing is easier but doing so in a way that’s flexible and allows us to adjust should that demand change,” Ankit Gupta, United’s vice-president of domestic networks, rationalised.

A turn for the worst

However, in recent days the United States has issued Level 3 travel advisories for Americans to “reconsider” and “avoid non-essential travel” to more than 20 Caribbean nations due to coronavirus-related risks. Aruba and Jamaica were among those named.

According to TravelPulse.com, “The State Department issued on Thursday (August 6) issued Level 4 “do not travel” advisories for several Caribbean countries, including the Dominican Republic, Belize and The Bahamas.

“The Dominican Republic, which has the highest COVID-19 infection rate among Caribbean countries, is the largest of six Caribbean destinations to receive a Level 4 designation,” the article added.

To date, the Spanish-speaking country has recorded 81,094 coronavirus cases and 1,394 related deaths. Furthermore, the provinces of Santo Domingo and Santiago have confirmed the second- and third-highest incidents of the coronavirus.

Moreover, the US Embassy in the Dominican Republic shared that, “News reports indicate many [Dominican] hospitals no longer have beds vacant for COVID-19 and are no longer able to accept new COVID-19 patients.”

It added, that embassy officials had suspended routine operation in that country due to the pandemic.

Since reopening their borders in June and July to international travel, both Jamaica and The Bahamas have witnessed increases in coronavirus-related illnesses. As a result, Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis, in a national address, said, “International commercial flights and commercial vessels carrying passengers will not be permitted to enter our borders, except for commercial flights from Canada, the United Kingdom, and the European Union. This will come into effect as of Wednesday the 22nd of July 2020 at midnight.”

On July 16, a day after reopening its tourism industry, Puerto Rican authorities asked American mainlanders to stay at home.