Nice People Networking

Why isn’t our government running a shuttle service to get people out of Puerto Rico?

by Philip Greenspun

I’ve been getting a lot of emails from friends who have friends or relatives trapped in Puerto Rico. With food and water supplies questionable, they’re looking for ideas on how to get out. Unfortunately there are only a handful of flights operating daily from the main San Juan airport. I checked the JetBlue web site and it seems that there is ample capacity on flights out of nearby places such as the Dominican Republic and the Turks and Caicos. This leads me to wonder why, as part of the relief efforts, the government hasn’t rented a Boeing 767 or similar-sized plane (300-400 passengers in single-class configuration) to run a $100/person shuttle service to get people to Punta Cana, D.R., Provo, etc.

If the argument is “Those other countries don’t want a lot of refugees camped in their airports” then we can send Obama and Hillary to explain to them how accepting refugees boosts a country’s economic growth. If our brightest political minds are unpersuasive, seats on the shuttle could be limited to those who have a confirmed prepaid reservation for an onward flight.

There are charter companies operating privately in Puerto Rico right now that can do this, but they operate small planes and therefore can’t make a real dent in the queue of people who want to leave and are willing to pay to leave. Tradewind is a reputable example. They currently have two PC-12s flying out of San Juan. Each plane can hold a maximum of 9 passengers, depending on seating configuration. It is roughly $4,500 to get a full planeload from SJU to Punta Cana, including all of the fees on both ends (approximately $1,000 in fees; a good preview of what the U.S. system might look like after the airlines take over Air Traffic Control). I contacted Tradewind and their schedule is getting tight, but they had availability for next-day flights.

In the old days when something bad happened in a remote location, a government would send a big ship to pick up its citizens who wanted to get out. Why not do the same thing this week in Puerto Rico, but updated to “big plane”? (Though I guess if the airports are maxed out, it would also work to load people onto cruise ships for the short trip to a nearby island with good airport capacity.)

“Puerto Rico’s main airport is barely functioning” (CNN, 9/26) says “On Monday there were only 10 commercial flights between San Juan and the mainland United States, with 10 more scheduled for Tuesday,” and “At the same time, many more military, charter and relief operation jets are also flying in and out of the airport, according to the FAA.” It seems as though the main obstacle to getting people out is a refusal to relax bureaucratic requirements: “Airlines are having difficulty printing out boarding passes that fliers need to go through TSA checkpoints and board flights.” But what is the likelihood of terrorists making their way to Puerto Rico in order to blow up a shuttle flight to Punta Cana? Why not collect $100, make sure that nobody is bringing an actual gun on the plane, and lift off? Load up with food and water from Club Med Punta Cana and come back. Repeat. We were able to do this for the Berlin Airlift with vastly more primitive equipment. Despite passengers often being armed, nobody hijacked an aircraft that was taking them out during the Fall (Liberation?) of Saigon.


Sep 28, 2017

Category: DR News |

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Last updated December 17, 2017 at 1:23 AM
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