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Jamaica is to benefit from an “Open Skies” Agreement with the United States, the foundation for which is built on the 1969 Air Transport Agreement, and constitutes an integral link in promoting the economic, social, and cultural development of the island.
“Since the conclusion of the 1969 Agreement, a number of developments have taken place, necessitating that we revisit the prior arrangement we have had in place,” Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, and Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Kenneth Baugh, said at the signing yesterday (October 30) at the Ministry’s New Kingston offices.
“New technologies have been introduced, new security concerns have emerged, and new and better facilities and opportunities in air transportation have become available,” he explained, noting that the agreement “is very important for both countries, as it sets out very clearly and concisely, the terms and conditions under which the commercial air space used by our two countries is to be utilised”.
The new agreement, Dr. Baugh said, “seeks to foster liberalisation and expansion of international air transport opportunities for airlines of both countries, and to promote an international aviation system based on fair competition and commercial considerations in the market place, with the minimum degree of Government interference and regulation consistent with fair competition”.
The “Open Skies” Agreement, also seeks to ensure the highest degree of safety and security in international air transport, by requiring compliance with international standards established by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), under the Chicago Convention, in addition to safeguarding aviation security by requiring conformity with the International Security Convention of Tokyo, Hague and Montreal.
“In addressing our own domestic concerns, the Open Skies Agreement will be of considerable interest for our national airline, Air Jamaica, providing unrestricted access to all points in the United States,” Dr. Baugh assured, adding that Jamaica stands to benefit from “the expanded market opportunities, which would become available for the promotion of tourism and other interests, as well as the sustainability and viability of our airport expansion plans”.
The “Open Skies” Agreement will apply to scheduled and charter passenger services, together with cargo services. International traffic rights are unrestricted and would permit Jamaican carriers (Air Jamaica) to serve from points behind Jamaica via Jamaica and intermediate points, to any point in the United States and beyond.
Therefore, instead of the limited 10 points in the United States, which the present agreement authorises, Air Jamaica or any other Jamaican carrier would be permitted to serve all points in the United States, thereby significantly enhancing the operational flexibility of the airlines, promoting the expansion of air services and generating significantly increased traffic to Jamaica.
In addition, the new Agreement provides for unrestricted capacity and frequency on all routes, allows for operational flexibility by allowing the airline to operate flights in other or both directions, combine flight numbers, serve points in any order, and transfer traffic among its aircrafts on any points on the route.
The type and number of aircraft used on a service may also be changed at any point.
Signing on behalf of the United States, Ambassador Brenda LaGrange Johnson, assured Dr. Baugh that “the US Government is committed to open markets and free trade”, noting that since 1992, “when we signed our first Open Skies accord with the Netherlands, the United States has reached Open Skies agreements with 94 countries at all levels of economic development”.