Local airline to offer international flights

Sunday, October 17, 2010

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ARMED with final approval from the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority for its international operations, the almost year-old Jamaica Air Shuttle (JAS) Limited is ready to start up routes to Cayman Brac, Haiti and Cuba.


According to JAS director Christopher Read, the routes were strategically chosen because of their proximity and relevance in terms of the number of Jamaicans living at the Caribbean destinations, to Jamaica.


"Cayman Brac, which has over 400 Jamaicans living and working there, is the closest island to ours, only 30 minutes flying time from Montego Bay. They have no direct service to Jamaica and must currently undergo almost a full day of flying via Grand Cayman to Kingston and then Montego Bay. This sometimes involves overnighting in Grand Cayman," he told the Sunday Observer.


According to Read, much of his hopes for Cayman Brac are premised on the progress the island has made since being pummelled by Hurricane Paloma in 2008.


"Cayman Brac has completely rebuilt and they are now ready for business. They need tourism to restart their economy and we see the Sangster International Airport hub as the ideal gateway for attracting passengers from Europe, UK, South America, North America, and the Far East to travel conveniently and directly to Cayman Brac," he said.


The Cayman Brac route will also make life easier for western Jamaica passengers who will no longer have to travel to Kingston in order to board a flight to Grand Cayman.


Read also expressed optimism about the advent of direct flights to Santiago de Cuba.


"The very limited air service that currently exists between Jamaica and Cuba is predominantly to Havana and the more than 110 Jamaican students at schools in Santiago de Cuba have no direct means of getting there," he said.


Read added that he was also anticipating opportunities for beginning day tours in both directions between Boscobel and Cuba, with the opening of the Boscobel Areodrome as an airport of entry.


Other interest groups expected to buy into the new service to Cuba include: diplomats; patients seeking medical attention in Cuba; businessmen; and tourists.


The justification for plans to commence a 70-minute flight from the Norman Manley International Airport to Haiti is premised in part on the increased need of aid workers in Haiti for access to recreation here as well as burgeoning business co-operation and investment in Haiti by Jamaican companies.


Despite the optimism concerning the benefits of the routes, however, Read is conscious of the need to go out and cultivate the markets.


"We are mindful of the state of the global economy and particularly that of our neighbouring islands. We do not anticipate that these routes are going to be ready markets, however our choice of aircraft anticipates the gradual building of the traffic and anticipates an upgrade of the equipment as the commercial justification occurs," he said.


Jamaica Air shuttle commenced its domestic operations with an inaugural flight from the Tinson Pen Aerodrome to the Sangster International Airport on December 7, 2009. The carrier now operates three round-trip flights daily between Kingston and Montego Bay.


Prior to the the civil unrest in Tivoli Gardens, occassioned by the 'Dudus' saga in May this year, the company used to operate four trips across the island. However, they were forced in the face of reduced traffic to scale down. But according to Read, the company is closely monitoring the situation with a view to reinstating the fourth flight in the near future.


It is estimated that the expansion of the airline, which Read intends to develop into the western Caribbean feeder service for passengers and small packages to the region, will create 25 additional jobs over the next 12 months.



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