The route is the 65th destination for the airline and the only non-stop flight from FLL to the paradise-like islands.
With dancing girls in carnival outfits, moko jumbies, pan artistes and singer Pressure, whose song “Virgin Island nice, real nice” rocked the departure terminal, Spirit set the tone for the flight.
The flight was captained by Theodore Prince, the first person born in St. Croix to land a major airline in the USVI.
“Today marks another great day for Spirit Airlines,” President Ted Christie said at the send-off. “We are starting our first nonstop service to the island of St. Croix … This shows our ongoing commitment to expand and support the Caribbean. St. Croix is our 13th destination in the Caribbean. It complements our existing daily service to St. Thomas and the USVI. We also recently launched service to Cap Haitian and resumed our service to the island of St. Maarten.”
Mark Dale, manager at FLL, estimated that more than 60 million Spirit passengers have passed through FLL in the 25-year time frame the airline has been in Fort Lauderdale.
“Now that is something special,” said Dale, before adding, “our partnership with Spirit seems to be getting stronger and stronger.”
Beverly Nicholson-Doty, commissioner of the USVI Department of Tourism said: “Today you are going to feel the spirit of St. Croix. We really believe in this partnership and we intend for this service to go from three days a week to seven days a week, because we know that we are going to make sure that this is a successful partnership for both Spirit and the USVI.”
Kurt Vialet, a member of the USVI legislature, said the citizens “were excited” because the captain on the inaugural flight to St. Croix is a Virgin Islander.
“I know that everybody that comes to St. Croix will fall in love with our island,” Vialet added. “We are a friendly people. We love to have fun and love to eat and drink.”
The festivities continued on the flight and upon arrival at the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport. There was an official ribbon cutting and passengers were given a real Crucian welcome, with more moka jumbies, singing groups and a live band.
With the introduction of the direct flight, Spirit adds an additional 1,740 seats per month and complements the daily flights already established to St. Thomas.
In St. Croix, a press conference was held where Deputy Tourism Commissioner Neelia Ross provided the official introduction and welcome to “the big island where it still nice.”
Mark Kopczak, Spirit’s vice president of network planning, thanked the St. Croix administration for its effort to get the airline there. Kopczak also singled out Nicholson-Doty’s efforts.
“(She) has worked tirelessly for many years to increase the amount of service that comes to the territory,” he said.
Laurie Villa, Spirit’s human resources officer, said Spirit would be adding 25 new team members to the group.
“Today we are friends flying friends to St. Croix,” Villa said.
President of the Hotel and Tourism Association Suzanne Rosbach, welcomed the airline, stating it would be a big boost for St. Croix and the USVI.
David Mapp, executive director for the Virgin Islands Port Authority, announced plans for “massive expansion” at the airport.
Governor Kenneth Mapp also praised Nicholson-Doty’s efforts in bringing Spirit to St. Croix.
“She is a Virgin Islands treasure in my heart,” he said.
Nicholson-Doty said Spirit flights will have a major impact on St. Croix.
“I think this is wonderful,” she said. “With its attractive fare it will make way for a lot of opportunities for St. Croix.”