Next month, we will celebrate the 35th anniversary of American Airlines’ service to Puerto Rico. Thirty-five years is a long time in this business, but in the context of Puerto Rico’s history, we are definitely newcomers. In fact, Borinquén, as the island was first named, was already inhabited by several tribes when Christopher Columbus visited it on his second voyage, way back in 1493. The island was dubbed San Juan (after Saint John the Baptist, the island’s patron saint) before it was renamed Puerto Rico, or “rich port.” Juan Ponce de León, famous seeker of the fountain of youth, was the first governor of the island, in 1509. Following the Spanish-American War in 1898, the island became part of the United States, and Puerto Ricans have had U.S. citizenship since 1917.
American Airlines first launched Caribbean service in 1971, with service between New York and five destinations — Puerto Rico, Aruba, Curaçao, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Haiti. In the years since, we have grown our Caribbean network dramatically. In addition to San Juan, American and American Eagle fly to more than two dozen destinations in the Caribbean from 14 cities in North America.
The hub we have built in San Juan is a perfect gateway, connecting the islands of the Caribbean to the rest of the American Airlines network. But just as importantly, our robust service to and from San Juan has enabled millions to learn what a fantastic destination Puerto Rico is in its own right.
Puerto Rico has one of the most pleasant tropical climates in the world, with an average temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter and 82 degrees in the summer, with year-round sea breezes. The island’s terrain ranges from palm-lined beaches on four coastlines to rugged mountain ranges, gently rolling hills, and even dry desertlike areas.
The island’s natural beauty is matched by its rich history. With cobblestone streets, the city of Old San Juan dates back to 1521. It is the only walled city in the Caribbean and the oldest capital city under the U.S. flag. The city’s architecture has been beautifully preserved and includes four fortresses from the Spanish Colonial Empire.
Not far from San Juan is the 28,000-acre Caribbean National Forest. Known as El Yunque, it is the only tropical rain forest in the U.S. Forest Service. Another natural wonder is the Camuy Caverns, the site of one of the longest underground river systems in the world. If stargazing is more your speed, you can check out the Arecibo Observatory, home of the largest single-dish radio telescope in the world, featured in films such as GoldenEye and Contact.
February weather being what it is, I am glad that this is the shortest month of the year. But there is always time for a quick escape. So, if you’re feeling sun-deprived, we will be delighted to whisk you off to Puerto Rico or any of our other tropical destinations. Assuming it’s what you want, we’ll be glad to bring you back home too.
Wherever your February travels take you, thank you for choosing American Airlines. Stay warm, and remember: Spring is just around the corner!
GERARD J. ARPEY
Chairman & CEO