The 'British' are back
BA resumes flights to Montego Bay after 11-year breakMonday, December 14, 2020
BY HORACE HINES
MONTEGO BAY, St James — After an 11-year hiatus British Airways resumed flights to the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, St James from Gatwick airport in London with the arrival of more than 300 passengers on Saturday.
Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett, who was on hand to welcome the flight, expressed his pleasure at the airline's return to Montego Bay.
“I think the last time we had one was 2009 and this is a good sign because it is starting for us the recovery of the industry and for the recovery of the British market coming out of Gatwick, essentially British. When you come from Gatwick you really bring in British and you really bringing a lot of the Jamaican Diaspora as well. So 300 passengers on this 777 unit is a good start for us,” said Bartlett.
For his part, British High Commissioner to Jamaica Asif Ahmad, who was also on hand to greet the passengers, noted that, among other things, it is important that the airline will carry cargo which he explained augurs well for the United Kingdom (UK) after it leaves the European Union (post-Brexit).
“The thing that we should be talking about is that the plane [will] carry cargo both ways, and that is important because that shows that there are business connections between our two countries.
“And I think Jamaican businesses can do far more to the UK with this direct line through the new trade agreement that we have kicking in on the first of January. There should be far more Jamaican products filling these aircrafts pulled out of Kingston and out of Montego Bay,” said Ahmad.
He argued that the British Airways return to Montego Bay is also of high importance with the nearly one million individuals of Jamaican origin domiciled in Britain.
“I think the significance of British Airways coming to Montego Bay, adding on to the flights to Kingston, is that Jamaica is important to Britain and indeed the other way around as well... Britain is important to Jamaica. And it is the kith-and-kin connection that we have with the 800,000 people of Jamaican heritage living in the UK. And, the tourists who comes here repeatedly and visit family and friends that is important,” said Ahmad.
For Bartlett, the return of the airline to Montego Bay after more than a decade also signals the hope for workers to return to work, many of whom have been out of a job since the shuttering of the tourism sector in March as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“The return of the tourism jobs is an important part of the well-being of the people in Montego Bay, St James; Hanover; Trelawny; and Westmoreland; because this is really the hub. This airport employs well over 5,000, so to see that over 4,000 of them were actually out of a job. The return of aircraft into this airport signals the return of hope and you could see how anxious and how excited the workers were in seeing this flight coming in today (Saturday),” Bartlett stated.
He underscored the importance of the workers adhering to the COVID-19 protocols.
“I want to use this opportunity also to say as we are anxious and excited about the return to economic activities we have to recognise the responsibilities we have to manage this pandemic and to comply with the protocols that have been dispatched. We are in the western side of Jamaica and we do recognise,” Bartlett said.
British Airways will fly to the Sangster International Airport twice weekly, Tuesdays and Saturdays.