British Airways is to join Virgin Atlantic in providing direct flights from Gatwick to Puerto Rico.

The carrier is to start twice weekly year-round flights to the Caribbean island’s capital of San Juan from March 28, 2011. Virgin currently operates a winter-only connection from London. 

BA’s lead in fares start at £668.90 return including taxes, fees and charges in economy, £1,080.40 return in premium economy and £2,200.40 return in Club World.

The new service boosts the number of BA flights to the Caribbean to 64 a week across 15 destinations.

The airline recently announced additional increases to the Caribbean from March 2011. Flights to Barbados will increase from 10 to 12 a week, Antigua from five to six a week and St Lucia – Port of Spain going daily from five a week.

BA chief executive Willie Walsh announced the San Juan route during a visit to the Caribbean for the Caribbean Tourism Organisation leadership strategy conference attended by political and business leaders.

“We are committed to developing our presence in the Caribbean wherever possible, building on our relationship with the region which stretches back many decades,” he said.

“Our new joint business with American Airlines and Iberia, which we announced last week, also opens up a host of new opportunities and connections to the British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Martinique, Guadaloupe, St Maarten and the US Virgin Islands of St Croix and St Thomas.”

Puerto Rico governor Luis Fortuño said: “Air access is key to the economic development of Puerto Rico. This increased access from London and its connecting markets is crucial for our tourism and commercial development.”