AFTER months of planning, the operators of the country's newest airline are breathing a sigh of relief and are looking forward to prosperous days for Fly Jamaica, which went on its inaugural flight from Kingston to the John F Kennedy (JFK) International Airport in the United States on Thursday.
Fly Jamaica, a partnership involving Guyanese Paul Ronald Reece, the company's chief executive officer, and three Jamaican shareholders including former Air Jamaica pilot, Captain Lloyd Tai, the company's chief operating officer, kicked off business last Thursday with its Boeing 757-200 aircraft, which will also operate between Kingston and Guyana.
After landing at JFK, Fly Jamaica officials presided over a celebratory ribbon-cutting exercise featuring airline officials, the Jamaican Consul General in New York and members of several organisations representing the Jamaican Diaspora.
On its return to the Norman Manley International Airport Thursday afternoon, Fly Jamaica officials organised yet another reception highlighting the successful start of the airline.
Director of Tourism John Lynch commended the start-up airline and spoke glowingly of the competence and experience of its principals; Tai, Reece and veteran airline executive Will Rodgers, a consultant to Fly Jamaica.
The local tourism director took time out to emphasise the need for Fly Jamaica to pay close attention to costs and service in what he described as a most competitive environment.
"[It was] nostalgic and it was a great event for us. You know I have been retired from Air Jamaica for a while and it was like stepping back into the shoes when I started many, many years ago.
"We had very good feedback, we were among the customers today, and they were happy with what they have seen and our anticipation is that they will spread the word for us," said Tai who emphasised the new airline's commitment to good prices and quality service.
Irwin Clare, a member of the Jamaican Diaspora Advisory Board in the United States also welcomed the new carrier.
"We are happy for another carrier that we can call a national carrier. It's something that has been absent for a while. In fact, there are some persons who have chosen not to fly since the last one, so there will be eagerness to get on the flight," said Claire, who promised that the diaspora representatives would do their best to support the regional airline.
Passengers who were among the first to book seats on the inaugural flight gave the airline high marks for its initial performance. They commented on the courtesy of the flight attendants, the allowance of two free pieces of luggage, and the decision to serve an in-flight meal of the Jamaican national dish of ackee and saltfish.
Travel agent Rawan Gordon described the flight as "excellent" as she explained that she was "excited about the prospects and future" of her country's newest air carrier.
She said she was very impressed with the service provided by the flight crew "especially the flight attendants, who were very professional."
Both Margarett Rose-Campbell and her friend Sharon Little said they were satisfied with the flight and would continue to book with the airline.
Another passenger said he was pleased with this first flight and predicted that the airline "will succeed, providing it maintains the standard of service delivered on the initial flight".
— Additional reporting by Harold Bailey