Business Aviation Travel in the Caribbean during Peak Season
The Caribbean is a fairly easy and straightforward operating environment for business aviation. Flying to this region, however, can be more challenging during peak winter travel periods. Aviation fuel shortages occur here and there every year, and the range of services is often limited on smaller islands. It’s best to plan trips early, particularly over major holiday periods, and work with your 3rd-party provider in arranging aircraft parking, crew accommodation, and timely jet fuel uplifts.
1. Start planning early
During high season in the Caribbean – particularly Christmas and New Year’s holidays and three-day weekends – it’s important to have as firm a schedule as possible. Have a plan “B” in case parking is not available at your preferred destination. Late requests may only allow for limited choices. In some cases you may have to drop passengers, reposition, and return to pick-up later.
2. Request aircraft parking as early as possible
Aircraft parking can be extremely limited at some locations – including St. Maarten (TNCM), Anguilla (TQPF), St. Vincent (TVSV) and Castries, St. Lucia (TLPC) – so it’s important to make arrangements as soon as the schedule is firmed up. When providing a schedule to your local ground handler, you may be required to indicate both date and estimated time of arrival (ETA) due to expected airport congestion. Be aware that there may be charges for cancelling confirmed aircraft parking arrangements during high- season periods.
3. Book hotel accommodation and local transportation early
It’s best to begin working on hotel reservations in the early planning phase of a high- season trip to the Caribbean. Expect high room prices with strict cancellation policies. In some cases, hotel reservations may be non-refundable. Transport choices (prepaid transportation with driver and rental vehicles) may also be limited, particularly at smaller, popular islands during holiday periods.
4. Arrange CARICOM APIS
APIS filings are required for arrivals and departures for all 15 CARICOM countries, with the exception of the Bahamas. CARICOM member states include: Antigua & Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Montserrat, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent & the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago. Required information to file CARICOM APIS includes aircraft registration, flight number (if applicable) and ETA/ATD. Include full names of all passengers and crew, their nationality, date and place of birth, passport number, place of issue, and expiration date.
5. Be prepared for day of operation delays
During holiday periods between early December and late March, be prepared for heavy traffic, particularly at locations with busy commercial traffic. Delays of 2-3 hours are possible, and it’s best practice to avoid peak hours of commercial airline operations. In some cases, you may be put in a holding pattern due to congestion on the ground. On occasion, due to traffic, you may be required to divert to an alternate.
6. Know what to expect at airports during holiday periods
At many islands, there’s a high likelihood of delays due to fuel trucks running behind schedule. Such delays are more common during peak periods of airline activity. It’s best to prepare passengers for the possibility of delays. Every year, aviation fuel runs out at various locations throughout the Caribbean. Always confirm aviation fuel availability with your 3rd-party provider and consider fueling on arrival (particularly if you plan to depart close to peak period of airline activity). Especially at smaller islands, it’s best practice to tanker in sufficient fuel to get out to an alternate.
7. Work with an experienced 3rd-party provider
Coordinate closely with your 3rd-party provider and local ground handler to sidestep avoidable issues and delays when operating to the Caribbean during high season. Aviation fuel shortages are often predictable in advance (through local knowledge of your ground handler), and it’s important to be aware of service limitations (such as reduced catering options, unavailability of ground support equipment or limited support services). Your 3rd-party provider will be able to help ease the customs/immigration/agriculture process by preparing paperwork and landing/arrival cards in advance.
With adequate advance planning, a trip to the Caribbean region during winter months and holiday periods should be a great experience. Particularly when landing at smaller airfields with limited aircraft parking and services availability, your 3rd-party provider and local ground handler will be key elements in orchestrating a successful and trouble-free trip.
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