The U.S. Department of Transportation has granted a waiver to allow foreign air carriers to provide certain expanded cargo and passenger transfer services at Puerto Rico’s international airports over a two-year term, the agency announced.
With its decision, Puerto Rico becomes the first U.S. territory in the Caribbean to become a “hub” for foreign air carriers, local government officials said.
“The granting of this waiver makes Puerto Rico the first air hub in U.S. territory in the Caribbean. Now the government and the private sector will establish a marketing plan in conjunction with various industries to promote the island according to existing trade opportunities and enable the development of other businesses to meet the needs of this new economic sector,” Gov. Wanda Vázquez said.
The waiver covers passenger and air traffic at the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in Carolina; the Mercedita International Airport in Ponce; and the Rafael Hernández International Airport in Aguadilla. It does not apply to foreign air carriers from Venezuela, the federal agency noted.
“We recognized that air service is vitally important to Puerto Rico and that it is heavily dependent on air transportation as a vital element of its economy, the U.S. Department of Transportation said in its decision.
“We also noted that Puerto Rico provided specific evidence of the negative impact that its economy has suffered in the aftermath of Hurricane María and for other reasons, and that Puerto Rico has demonstrated, in our tentative view, that a strong public interest basis existed for the relief we proposed to confer,” according to the order signed by Joel Szabat, assistant secretary of the agency’s Aviation and International Affairs.
The governor said she will convene several associations related to the tourism, aerospace, cargo and entities such as Discover Puerto Rico and Invest Puerto Rico, to coordinate efforts to establish guidelines for multiple sectors to benefit from the decision.