Transfer sentiments about Air Jamaica to Fly Jamaica

Thursday, May 09, 2013

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TRINIDAD-BASED Caribbean Airlines (CAL) assumed responsibility for Air Jamaica flights as well as the right to use the Air Jamaica brand name in 2010. But it is clear that Jamaicans still have lingering sentiments about Air Jamaica, which have not been transferred to the new majority owners.

There is also resentment over the recent decision by CAL to reduce its flights to Jamaica and earlier claims that the airline has been dispensing with some, if not all, of its former Air Jamaica pilots.

Transport Minister Dr Omar Davies appears to have taken the issues sufficiently seriously to have asked a high-level team led by his Trinidad and Tobago counterpart to come to the island in a few weeks' time to discuss CAL's plans and actions with the Jamaican Government, the minor but important shareholder.

We are keenly interested in seeing the outcome of such a meeting, although we suspect that the Trinidadians are coming more out of courtesy than anything else, since at this point we can't clearly see much ground being covered.

If CAL's actions are to be taken at face value, then the airline is operating on the basis of strict economy and not out of some unexplained desire to spite Jamaica and Jamaicans. No sensible airline cuts flights that are profitable and going straight to the bottomline.

We note, for example, that CAL is reported to be facing significant challenges despite receiving substantial subsidies from the Government of Trinidad and Tobago and continues to experience a worsening financial situation.

We certainly don't expect Trinidadian taxpayers to subsidise flights to and from Jamaica, even while we acknowledge that cutting flights to Kingston or Montego Bay cannot augur well for Jamaica.

Dr Davies has told the parliament that the decision to drop flights was incorrect in the eyes of the Portia Simpson Miller Administration and was below the minimum level required by the agreement, which granted permission for use of the Air Jamaica brand name. In addition, CAL has had continuing challenges in meeting its obligations to the Norman Manley International Airport, the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority and Jamaica Customs.

Of course, we hope that Dr Davies can pull something out of the hat that can bring resolution to this situation. But we are not holding our breath. It is hardly likely that Jamaica will be offering any subsidies to help out, and even if we did, it is certain that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would have nothing of it.

What we humbly suggest is that those among us who still hold to our sentiments about Air Jamaica look to the development of Fly Jamaica Airways, which now operates four times a week to New York's John F Kennedy Airport.

If the public relations is to be believed, Fly Jamaica has been doing very well since commencing operations just over four months ago. Perhaps, with greater support from Jamaicans, the airline might be able to acquire routes that CAL cannot adequately service.




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