The Norwegian Airlines plane that would take 60 passengers on an inaugural flight to the French Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe got more than a water salute when it pulled off the runway Thursday afternoon. The fire trucks were positioned on either side of the taxiway and, as a southerly wind carried the spray across the Boeing 737, a rainbow appeared.
It was an omen airport and island tourism officials hope spells success for a new service and vacation destination that few people at Green Airport seemed to know about.
Susan Porth and Kenya Germain were two of them. For both, this was their first visit to Guadeloupe. Porth, who lives in Warwick, is an agent with The Travel Connection in Cranston. She was one of six travel agents making the trip. Germain is from Boston. She had no thought of visiting the island until she started poking around on her computer last summer, soon after Norwegian announced flights from Green to Martinique and Guadeloupe.
“I was surfing the Internet and once I saw the great prices I made it work,” she said. She made arrangements to stay at an AirBNB and planned to return yesterday.
Germain’s story is music to Iftikhar Ahmad, president and CEO of the Rhode Island Airport Corporation, and Sandra Venite, a representative from the tourism department of Guadeloupe. Ahmad is counting that the discount fares being offered by Norwegian and other carriers initiating service from Green this year will bring in more people to Rhode Island and translate into more jobs for Rhode Islanders.
At the Caribbean connection, Venite is hopeful of the same outcome.
Venite was quick to dispel images of a storm-torn island looking to recover from the ravages of Hurricane Maria. The island was kissed by the storm with some downed trees and minor damage. “In 48 hours it was back to normal,” she said.
Venite said rates on Guadeloupe compare to other islands and, given the current exchange rates between the Euro and the dollar, this is a good time to visit.
“It has great food and affordable prices…it’s a great vacation without breaking the wallet.”
For Ahmad, the challenge is creating awareness of the deals being offered by carriers at Green.
“We need to get the word out so people fill these planes,” he said. The reception given those taking the first flight was first class. There was a spread of foods from fruits to sandwiches and pastry along with a couple of punches to choose from.
Were they rum punches?
“We thought about it,” confided Venite.
But then those flying to Guadeloupe didn’t have that long to wait. The flight is three hours and 50 minutes. There are flights twice a week to and from Green to Martinique and Guadeloupe. Rates are as low as $59.