Thursday, November 15, 2012

aa + rtb

American Airlines begins non-stop Saturday service to Roatan from its Miami, FL hub this Saturday, 17 November. In establishing this new flight to Roatan, American joins major U.S. carriers Delta and United in offering scheduled jet service to my island's international airport (airport code RTB) from their southernmost U.S. gateways (Delta from Atlanta's ATL; United from Houston's IAH; and - now - American from MIA).

Considering how much MBA brain power, sanity-compromising marathon meetings, long-term strategic considerations, number crunching, and market intelligence go into these "new destination" decisions, the establishment of this new route by American Airlines represents a tremendous vote of confidence by this colossal American air transportation company, recognizing Roatan's potential as an increasingly attractive, upwardly trending Caribbean vacation destination.

At 30 miles long, Roatan is the largest of the Bay Islands of Honduras, an archipelago consisting of three major islands, three minor islands, and a multitude of cays that swim in the Western Caribbean Sea 40 miles off the North Coast of mainland Honduras. Roatan is a beautiful, rugged, jungle-covered, reef-fringed, tropical island that constantly awes both visitors and residents alike with its dramatic beauty.

Roatan and the Bay Islands are politically part of the Central American Republic of Honduras. Caught up in geopolitical circumstances beyond its control (circumstances being imposed by the powerful external actors with deep pocket and ruthless agendas), an observer looking in from the outside could reasonably conclude that mainland Honduras has -- for all practical purposes -- become a narco state in all but official label. For Honduran citizens finding themselves suddenly living in this unorthodox model of "state," it's very unnerving to consider the surreal consequences this new reality may entail.

Fortunately, the 40 miles of Caribbean Sea that separate the Bay Islands from the mainland act as both a physical and cultural barrier that results in the islands being markedly distinct from the mainland, and much more typically Caribbean. That is, the islands tend to be peaceful, low key, easy-going, considerably safer, and relaxed. Those deep, benevolent miles of Caribbean water that separate us from the complex and heartbreaking troubles our fellow countrymen face on the continent make a world of difference. While legally one unit, the Bay Islands and mainland Honduras are in many other ways distinctly separate entities.

Welcome to Roatan, American Airlines! Don't be surprised if -- like many before you -- you fall in love with this prodigiously beautiful, adorably quirky, surprisingly diverse, exasperatingly third-worldy, charmingly authentic, addictively sultry, Caribbean+Latin paradise. You won't be the first to succumb to the sweet, delicious "island spell" innocently weaved and cast by Roatan's warm, genuine, open-hearted people.

Best wishes, AA.

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