ST JAMES, Jamaica - The return of direct flights from Italy is being hailed by local stakeholders as a major boost for air connectivity out of Europe and for the upcoming winter tourist season.
"The addition of these direct flights speaks to the confidence our airline partners have of the destination,” Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett said.
Government officials, attraction and hotel owners, transport operators and other business interests, said that the latest development, which saw the inaugural arrival of Neos Airline out of Milan, Italy into Montego Bay on November 20, represents an important sign of recovery since 2019 and the subsequent onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Jamaica continues to show its resilience from the fallout of the pandemic as our tourism recovery surpasses our targets. Air connectivity out of Europe, one of our major source markets, is something we hold dear to our hearts and something we must continue to nurture, considering the competitive nature of the global tourism market,” the minister said.
Bartlett argued that the return of direct flights will dramatically increase arrivals from Italy, pointing to the 13,000 visitors Jamaica received in 2019. He noted that for the upcoming winter season, the airline will connect Italy to Jamaica with two weekly flights.
“In addition, from December 23, Neos Air will operate a second flight from Verona, Italy. Both flights will be utilising a Boeing 787-900 Dreamliner with a capacity of 359 seats,” the minister said.
Meanwhile, MBJ Airports Limited, operator of the Sangster International Airport, in Montego Bay, is also celebrating the return of Neos Airline, calling it a prelude of things to come for the expected bumper winter season, which officially starts on December 15.
“We are excited by the return of Neos’ weekly service to Sangster International Airport for the first time since the start of the pandemic,” MBJ’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Shane Munroe, told stakeholders who were on hand for the airline’s arrival on November 20.
“We are happy that our guests from Italy can once again enjoy travel to Jamaica using the services of Neos Airline,” he added.
For his part, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Airports Authority of Jamaica, Audley Deidrick, was equally excited.
“The Airports Authority of Jamaica welcomes the return of the service by Neos Airline from Milan to the Sangster International Airport and by extension to Jamaica. This service will provide greater connectivity for travellers between Milan and Jamaica,” he said.
Director of Tourism, Donovan White, said the move is another positive nod for Jamaica's tourism “as we continue to keep the destination top of mind”.
“We anticipate an increase in visitors and look forward to showcasing our warm Jamaican hospitality," White said.
The inaugural flight carried 144 passengers and 11 crew members and was greeted by a celebratory water arch salute from MBJ’s Emergency Response Service team, live Jamaican Mento music, and senior representatives of the Jamaica Tourist Board and MBJ Airports Limited.