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They don’t just want you back—they want you on board one of their many flights leaving gateways across the USA That’s the message from directors of Caribbean Airlines Ltd (CAL) and Air Jamaica, at an elaborate dinner affair to re-launch the new Air Jamaica/CAL brand in the Northeast USA marketplace.

Monday’s re-launch was held at Russo's On The Bay, a trendy Italian catering facility in the Howard Beach section of Queens, New York.

With the merger/acquisition now a done deal, Air Jamaica's Manager of Sales,William Rodgers, one of several speakers addressing the large turn-out, wasted little time telling the audience that ‘the little piece of Jamaica that flies’ will soon return to full functionality.

Mr. Rodgers, a top executive who has served Air Jamaica for some 35 years, reported that the Government of Jamaica will maintain a 16% stake in the new entity, which has an estimated market value of US$500 million.

He said that the re-branded Air Jamaica will acquire two new aircraft, in time to meet the busy summer travel season, and will reopen a number of familiar destinations, starting with the Jamaica to London route this summer.

The new company plans to have a new fleet of airplanes in place by the summer of 2012.

Mr. Rodgers said that he was heartened that the merger is completed, and joined a chorus of speakers extolling the value of the airline to the Caribbean community and to regionalization.

His Excellency Raymond O. Wolfe, Jamaica’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, hailed the merger as proof positive that there was progress in regional integration.

In a spirited presentation, Ambassador Rodney Charles, Trinidad & Tobago’s Permanent Representative to the UN, said that the merger of two iconic brands – Air Jamaica and CAL – was another positive milestone.

He said that in the context of the global economic climate, small island states will be better off working together.

“As small nations – of the Caribbean – we can achieve great things if we work together,” he declared, to rousing applause.

Other speakers included: Consul-General of Jamaica in New York, Geneive Brown Metzger; Brooklyn’s Deputy Borough President, Yvonne Graham; and Regional Sales Manager, Campbell Rudder.

Air Jamaica’s Community Affairs Manager, Ann Marie Francis, and Yendi Phillips, Miss Universe runner-up an ambassador for the new airline, co-hosted the event.

By Derrick Scott, JIS Reporter