Turks airline to pump millions into Jamaica-Latin Caribbean routes

New airlift

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

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INTERCARIBBEAN Airways will invest millions to execute its regional expansion that includes offering airlinks between Jamaica and the Latin Caribbean, according to management.

It's aimed at driving demand between Jamaica, Dominica Republic and Puerto Rico in additon to tapping into existing business and tourism linkages.

"In order for business to take place between [the islands] and for new opportunities to exist between these markets, air service is essential," asserted Trevor Sadler chief executive at InterCaribbean in a Monday phone interview with the Observer.

The airline formerly Air Turks & Caicos the nation's national carrier will offer a direct route from Jamaica to the Domincan Republic and also Puerto Rico starting this month.

The new service will obviate the circuitous travel via ­Miami, USA or Panama on legacy carriers.

"You will invest your entire day travelling in the other direction (to the Americas) to get to the islands. Business can't happen in that environment," he said.

Carriers rarely venture to link the Anglophone and Latin Caribbean.

For instance Jamaica Air Shuttle and Skylan Air in recent times offered similar service between Jamaica and Dominica Republic but are now inoperative. But links to Puerto Rico are less explored.

"There has never really been connectivity as far as I know between jamaica and Puerto Rico," he reasoned.

The company aims to operate an efficient route by linking multiple nations to keep passenger load factor high on its 30 seat aircrafts.

InterCaribbean based in Turks has secured bilateral agreements with Jamaica, Dominica Republic and Peurto Rico. The company continues to negotiate with Cuba. It also flies to Bahamas and Haiti.

"From a regulatory point of view we have to drive some of the traffic through Providenciales, Turks & Caicos. We do have traffic rights afforded to us both from Jamaica and the Dominican Republic which allows us to fly seats between Jamaica and Dominica Republic or Jamaica to San Juan, Puerto Rico," he said.

The airline announced its name change last November to become a "neutrally recognised brand" and also to expand its footprint.

"For Jamaica it's much easier to embrace an InterCaribbean name rather than Air Turks & Caicos."

To extend the footprint the company was infused with a capital injection by owner and chairman, Lyndon Gardiner.

"As we are a private company we do not sort of disclose financials but it is not unreasonable to say that the investment is in the tens of millions to build out where we are going," he said adding that the financing will come from private capital.

Currently six of the company's 12 Embraer turbo-props are operational. Sadler aims to roll out additional ones during the year.

"We have a plan to take it a step further that goes beyond simply staying with 30 seat airline. We are currently examining the next size up airline--50 to 110 seats. It would likely be a jet," he said.

Currently some 18 pilots are in the fleet which includes Jamaicans. The airline recently celebrated 22 years of existence.

"We will be close to doubling our flying in the coming months. So by virtue of that the people, manpower hardware of the airline and additional airplanes are coming online," he stated. "It is expensive [rebranding the airline] but there is a belief that there is a market that we need to embrace, and the time to do it is with a new brand that speaks to each country in which we operate," he said.

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