PM Says Air Jamaica A Source of Pride, But Too Costly


The Prime Minister, the Hon. Bruce Golding, in a statement issued tonight (April 30), the eve of Air Jamaica’s transition from a national airline to becoming part of the regional carrier, Caribbean Airlines, extended “sincere and heartfelt appreciation” to those who served the airline over its 40 years of existence.
“You have an enviable safety and service record. As staff and management of Air Jamaica, you have served your country well and all Jamaica is proud of you,” Mr. Golding said.
He said that for 40 years “it was an act of daring” for a small country like Jamaica to conceive of creating a national airline.
“We did, and over the years this ‘little piece of Jamaica that flies’ has become a source of pride to Jamaicans at home and abroad,” Mr. Golding noted.
However, he pointed out that pride came at a huge cost – $126 billion over the 40 years and $31 billion over the last three years alone – as among other things, the international airline industry has come under tremendous pressure from rising costs and intense competition.
“Many airlines have gone under and, in our case, keeping Air Jamaica flying has placed a huge burden on government’s scarce resources, only made worse by the global recession,” the Prime Minister said.
“We have to get our priorities right. We have to eliminate our fiscal deficit and reduce our borrowing, so that interest rates can come down and the economy can be given a chance to achieve real growth. We have to be able to devote more of our available resources to reducing crime, improving education, strengthening healthcare delivery and providing better infrastructure. We cannot do these things if we have to absorb such huge losses from state-owned enterprises like Air Jamaica,” he stated.
He said that the Government has had to take the regrettable, but inevitable, decision that it could no longer provide the financial support required to keep Air Jamaica flying. But, he noted that Jamaica has been fortunate to be able to transfer majority ownership to a regional carrier, which will operate the routes that are of the greatest importance to Jamaicans and tourists.
The full statement issued by Jamaica House read: Forty years ago it was an act of daring for a small country such as ours to conceive of creating a national airline.
We did, and over the years this “little piece of Jamaica that flies” has become a source of pride to Jamaicans at home and abroad.
We boasted of the skill of the pilots, and applauded each perfect landing, were mesmerised by the charm of the flight attendants and were ever so willing to forgive the shortcomings, because it was our airline.
Unfortunately that pride has come at a huge cost, $126 billion over the 40 years and $31 billion over the last three years, as among other things, the international airline industry has come under tremendous pressure from rising costs and intense competition.
Many airlines have gone under and in our case, keeping Air Jamaica flying has placed a huge burden on government’s scarce resources only made worse by the global recession.
We have to get our priorities right. We have to eliminate our fiscal deficit and reduce our borrowing, so that interest rates can come down and the economy can be given a chance to achieve real growth. We have to be able to devote more of our available resources to reducing crime, improving education, strengthening healthcare delivery and providing better infrastructure. We cannot do these things if we have to absorb such huge losses from state-owned enterprises like Air Jamaica. The Government has had to take the regrettable but inevitable decision that it could no longer provide the financial support required to keep Air Jamaica flying.
We have been fortunate in that we have been able to transfer the majority ownership to a regional carrier, Caribbean Airlines, which will operate the routes that are of the greatest importance to Jamaican travellers, the Diaspora and tourist visitors making connections to Jamaica. The government of Jamaica will have minority ownership in all of Caribbean Airlines, not just the Jamaican operations, but will not be required to absorb any losses or provide any capital.
On behalf of the Government and people of Jamaica, I want to extend my sincere and heartfelt appreciation to all who have kept Air Jamaica flying over these 40 years. You have an enviable safety and service record. As staff and management of Air Jamaica, you have served your country well and all Jamaica is proud of you. For 40 years our pilots and crew have landed us smoothly on the tarmac and we have clapped them all the time…a practise uniquely Jamaican. Today we clap our pilots, our crew, our ground staff, managers, and directors but not necessarily for the last time. Many of you will assume positions with Caribbean Airlines and we are confident that you will display the same level of commitment and professionalism that you gave to Air Jamaica.
For the staff that will move on to other fields and organisations, you will carry with you the skills, values and work ethic you have gained from the Air Jamaica experience. The new organisations you join will be richer for it. The transition for some will be difficult but the Government is prepared to assist in providing whatever support we can.
This is not necessarily the end of the dream that led us to create our own airline in 1968. That was part of a larger dream of a prosperous Jamaica providing a better life for all Jamaicans. Let us use this as an opportunity to place our country firmly on a path to fulfilling that dream where our people can enjoy a way of life that will be the greatest source of our national pride

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