Ian Fleming International Airport — Never say never again!
(l-r) Donovan White, Director of Tourism; Jason Reisinger, Managing Director of Global Network Planning, American Airlines; Delano Seiveright, Senior Advisor & Strategist, Ministry of Tourism; Christine Valls, Vice President of Latin America, Caribbean and Florida Sales, American Airlines; Hon. Edmund Bartlett, Minister of Tourism; Adam Stewart, Chairman, Sandals Resorts International; Hon. Audley Shaw, Transport Minister and Gebhard Rainer, CEO, Sandals Resorts International take a quick photo moment following a dinner meeting at Sandals Montego Bay to discuss new services between Miami and Ocho Rios by American Airlines on Wednesday,March 9, 2022.

Many column inches in this newspaper have, over several years, been dedicated to the immense economic benefits that could come to Jamaica from having Ian Fleming International Airport in St Mary accommodate scheduled passenger flights.

Those benefits, we have consistently argued, would flow not only to the State but to communities and businesses from Ocho Rios in St Ann on the northern shore all along the coastline to Portland in the north-east.

We had pointed to those benefits in keeping with the vision of the founder and late chairman of this newspaper, Mr Gordon “Butch” Stewart, who, as we noted last week, had, at the dawn of 2013, argued strenuously that the airport was one of the “low-hanging fruits” that Jamaica could pick with not a great deal of effort, and little money, in order to stem “the never-ending spiral of borrowing to pay off its debt, while not earning enough to invest in development”.

We recall that Mr Stewart, who had received strong support for this idea from St Mary parliamentarian Mr Robert Montague, had suggested at the time that the first investment project that the Jamaican Government could tackle immediately was extending the airport's runway.

The airport project, he had said, contained all the ingredients for stimulating the economy, as well as would bring international status with Customs and immigration, also, a lot of work was done to the runway and the terminal.

Mr Stewart, as we noted in our report last week, did not live to see his dream realised, but his relentless drive to have the airport accommodate international flights has now borne fruit as American Airlines a long-time and great friend of Jamaica will begin twice-weekly service between Miami and Ian Fleming International starting on November 5 this year.

While the runway was not expanded beyond the current 4,780 feet to accommodate large jets operated by the world's major carriers, as Mr Stewart had recommended, American Airlines found a way around that to provide this valuable service.

The airline, we are told, will be using an Embraer-175 regional jet that can seat between 76 and 88 passengers.

Mr Butch Stewart's son, Adam, who is now executive chairman of Sandals Resorts International and this newspaper, told us last week that, over time, the expectation is that American Airlines will grow the service to daily.

That, we hope, would certainly enhance the benefits envisioned by the late Sandals founder of greater stopover arrivals, and the creation of more jobs in that section of the island driven by increased demand on businesses in tourism and its many sub sectors, among them restaurants, attractions, agriculture, craft, and entertainment.

We agree with Mr Adam Stewart that this is “an incredible achievement” and we look forward to other airlines flying into Ian Fleming International, bringing more visitors, and, in turn, offering Jamaicans in that section of the island flight options that will save them road travel time to Kingston or Montego Bay.

There were a lot of doubting Thomases at the time that the potential of the airport was first raised. Given the current development, Mr Fleming, the famous author of the fictional James Bond spy movies for whom the airport is named, would — were he still alive — probably extend to those sceptics the name of one of those movies Never Say Never Again.

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