Butch Stewart Supports Govt’s Move to take Control of Air Jamaica

Outgoing Air Jamaica Chairman, Gordon “Butch Stewart” has expressed his support for government’s decision to assume temporary control of the national carrier and to restructure its operations to return the airline to viability.
Speaking at a press conference at the Ministry’s National Heroes Circle offices in Kingston today (Thursday Dec. 23), Mr. Stewart commended the administration for the manner in which the negotiations leading up to the final decision were conducted, noting that the government has been “a good partner.”
He also praised the make-up of the interim restructuring board and encouraged the future management of the airline to treasure the legacy, which has been handed over. “I would encourage Air Jamaica to .keep pushing forward to opening new routes and developing them,” he said, noting that the national carrier was “the single most important economic weapon held by the Jamaican government and the island’s “single biggest ambassador”. ” Our economy flies on the wings of Air Jamaica,” he stated further.
While conceding that the airline had incurred huge losses over the years, Mr. Stewart said the bigger picture was the airline’s contribution to the national economy and the pride of citizens.
He further pointed out that the entity was the single airline in the third world boasting a new reliable fleet of aircrafts, but added that while tremendous work has already gone into the airline, more remained to be done.
“We have flown air Jamaica on its mission to make Jamaica wealthy, to make the tourist industry strong, the economy strong and the nationals proud. I consider that mission completed and accomplished,” Mr. Stewart declared.
He urged particular attention to be paid to the development of the Montego Bay hub, which he said was critical to the Caribbean routes plied by the airline.
During his emotive farewell, the business mogul said that while pleased with the performance of the former management team, the handing over of the entity was a “relief”. He further advised caution in relinquishing routes, noting that once given up, they were harder to regain.
The government today announced its decision to temporarily assume responsibility for Air Jamaica formerly overseen by the Air Jamaica Acquisition Group Limited (AJAG). As part of the move, all AJAG members on the Air Jamaica Board and Air Jamaica Holdings Limited will resign with immediate effect.
In the meantime, a new interim board has been appointed for an initial six-month period ending June 30. The board will be chaired by Dr. Vincent Lawrence.Dr. Lawrence told journalists, that the mandate of the new board was to maintain the airline’s position as a world-class operation, “while pursuing viability through rightsizing in order to realize operating surpluses and overall cost savings.”
An initial injection of US$25 million has been made by the government in addition to US$20 million from the AJAG group to partially address the operational losses of the airline.
The decision to revert ownership of the airline to the government was based on the increased indebtedness of the airline, the significant operating difficulties as well as the generic challenges facing the industry. The airline was divested in 1994.

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