Restarting direct Jacksonville/SJU air route ‘on the radar,’ says Ports
During a recent visit to the port of Jacksonville — one of the busiest maritime connections between Puerto Rico and the US mainland — Puerto Rico Ports Authority Executive Director Joel Pizá-Batiz sat down with the Jacksonville Aviation Authority, to discuss the possibility of resuming a key direct flight that was discontinued in 2015.
In an exclusive interview with this media outlet, Pizá-Batiz said municipal transportation authorities in Jacksonville responded positively to lobbying for re-staring that route, which was covered by jetBlue between Jacksonville International Airport and the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport until six years ago.
“If there’s one thing for sure it’s that the maritime and business community is hoping and clamoring for a direct flight between Jacksonville and Puerto Rico. That route existed until 2015, and since then, economic indicators have improved because there are more Puerto Ricans living in Jacksonville, and executives who want to travel the route,” he said.
While no date has been set for that to start, the government official said, “getting that to happen will require a joint effort by the Puerto Rico Tourism Co., the Puerto Rico Ports Authority and the Jackson Aviation Authority, to put pressure as much as we can to try to make that direct route a reality, soon. We came back with the mission to get it done.”
The visit to the northeastern Florida city in late April also cemented commercial ties with the Jacksonville Port Authority, known as JaxPort, which moves 1.2 million cargo containers a year. Of those, 800,000 are bound for Puerto Rico through three main maritime shipping lines: Tote Maritime Puerto Rico, Crowley Maritime and Trailer Bridge.
Pizá-Batiz said domestic trade between the Florida port and Puerto Rico reaches $700 million a year.
The official visit to Jacksonville responded to the fact that, according to Pizá-Batiz, there had been no real communication between Ports and JaxPort for decades.
“We spoke virtually first, and then the idea was born to establish a collaborative agreement for mutual assistance, in areas like communications and statistics, as well as in times of natural disasters,” he said.
Other areas covered by a Memorandum of Understanding signed on April 26 include “business development and marketing, relationship building with current and potential ocean carriers and shippers, and best practices in environmental protection, operations and security,” according to the agreement.
“Trade with Puerto Rico represents about half of JaxPort’s container business, a percentage that has held steady even as our international volumes have continued to grow over the years. We look forward to this continued partnership and are proud of the benefits it will have for both communities for generations to come,” said JaxPort CEO Eric Green during the signing.