REDjet plans to launch new Jamaican airline

BY PAUL ALLEN Business reporter allenp@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

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REDJET, the Caribbean's low fares airline, is planning to create a separate Jamaican airline which will provide hundreds of jobs, less than two weeks after tickets went on sale locally for flights between the island and two other regional destinations.


Speaking with the Business Observer yesterday, REDjet chairman and chief executive officer Ian Burns said that the company has been attempting to fly to the island for the past four years and that the Jamaican government is aware of its aspirations.


"We still want to be an airline of Jamaica. We would like to have a separate airline here for Jamaica, so we will be making an application to Jamaica again. We had our difficulty before because of the divestment of Air Jamaica. That's happened, Air Jamaica is no longer around and so we believe those barriers have been taken down and we should be approved, hopefully sometime next year, and we can start operations out of Jamaica. That should bring somewhere in the region of six to seven hundred jobs to Jamaica."


Burns said that the time could not be more right for REDjet's plans to create a Jamaican airline. Now that the former national airline, Air Jamaica, is no longer an issue, and with many persons laid off as a result, the human resources are already there to be used.


"All our cabin crew, pilots, all our engineers, flight dispatch officers, all our ground handling services, all those services will be provided from Jamaica, by Jamaicans. Our plan will be to build our fleet here, specifically in Jamaica, from five to 10 aircraft. That will be built on a solid business foundation and we will grow as the demand is there for our service."


He also said that to be Jamaican, the airline will have to be majority-owned by Jamaicans. As such, partnerships will be forged with local interests for creating the airline, which will trade as REDjet.


When asked about the issues that delayed the regional airline's entry into the country earlier this year, Burns said that this was solely due to protectionism on the part of the Government which wanted to stave off any competition that it could have posed to the then national air carrier, Air Jamaica.


"The timing wasn't right as far as they were concerned in terms of the divestment of Air Jamaica. They did not want to have another airline being licensed at that point but that's now gone."


The Government has maintained, however, that it was never a matter of protectionism and granted REDjet approval after what it deemed satisfactory resolution of safety concerns.


"It's very regrettable that people would raise that (safety) as an issue. Our aircraft are subject to exactly the same regulations, exactly the same procedures that Air Jamaica or Caribbean Airlines or LIAT (another regional airline) or any other airline in the world is subject to. Both the Civil Aviation departments of Trinidad and Jamaica have approved REDjet from an airworthiness and safety perspective before there was political issues were raised in June of this year, so clearly this had nothing to do with REDjet," said Burns.


The failing Air Jamaica was sold in May to the Trinidad and Tobago-based Caribbean Airlines.


REDjet began selling tickets for its Jamaican routes less than two weeks ago after it was granted approval and, according to Burns, the reception has exceeded expectations.


"Ticket sales have been really good. We're really pleased with the response we've got out of Jamaica. We're not surprised in that sense and we are very excited. There's a huge amount of people who really want to travel and it proves that cost has been a huge determining factor.They're excited about being able to fly around the Caribbean and REDjet is providing that opportunity for people".


REDjet will fly between Port of Spain, Trinidad and Jamaica twice weekly starting November 20, while having three flights weekly between Jamaica and Bridgetown, Barbados starting November 21.


"We want to be the biggest airline in the Caribbean region, providing the lowest fares, providing the most access, providing the best schedule, providing the best value," Burns said of the airline that offers passengers tickets as low as US$9.99 (J$857).


BO


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