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Caribbean Air Capacity Gets A Lift In Time For Winter

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Travelers heading to the Caribbean's sun and sand this winter will discover they have substantially more flight options at their disposal than in the past.
A year ago at this time, the situation was dire following American Airlines' hatchet job on its Caribbean routes, which took effect in September 2008. The cuts took a heavy toll on last winter's travel plans south, particularly in and out of San Juan on American Eagle.

American wasn't alone. Other carriers serving the region sharply trimmed service from U.S. gateways, either by scrapping routes entirely or reducing frequencies.

Air Jamaica, as part of its government mandate to trim costs and cut unprofitable routes, dropped three U.S. gateways in February, despite howls of protest from Jamaican nationals who had used the Miami gateway in particular as a portal to the shopping malls in South Florida.

Air Jamaica also cut Atlanta and Los Angeles as well as service to Grand Cayman from Jamaica.

Its new schedule focused on its core destinations in the U.S.: New York, Chicago, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale.

As 2009 progressed, the carrier tweaked its schedule, adding frequencies in the summer and a year-round late-night flight from New York to Kingston and increasing its peak-season departures to Jamaica.

As the Caribbean gears up for this year's peak winter travel season, however, the airlift picture has brightened considerably. That is due in large part to low-cost carriers adding and expanding route networks, seizing opportunities to snag gateways and routes abandoned by the legacy carriers.

Substantial capacity reductions by the big airlines over the past year served to sweeten the outlook in some markets where the discount airlines were quick and nimble to jump in and pick up the slack.

JetBlue beefs up in Boston

JetBlue moved in quickly to pick up several lucrative routes out of Boston, abandoned by US Airways when it announced last month that it was

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