Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, says the return of British Airways flights to Montego Bay, after an 11-year hiatus, sends a strong signal that tourism recovery in Jamaica is well on the way
He was speaking at a ceremony at the Sangster International Airport on Saturday (December 12) to welcome the Boeing 777 flight from London Gatwick with 332 passengers on board.
Minister Bartlett said the return of British Airways comes on the heels of new JetBlue direct flights from Raleigh, North Carolina and Newark, New Jersey and the resumption of flights by several carriers, which had halted service due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“After an 11-year hiatus, and even within the middle of a pandemic, British Airways is now back in Montego Bay… which is a ringing endorsement and a much-needed boost for our tourism sector to say the least,” he said.
“This is a very good sign because it is starting for us, not only the recovery of the industry but, most certainly, the British market coming out of Gatwick,” he said, noting that the flights are bringing in members of the Jamaican diaspora as well.
“It is a clear sign that our tourism sector could recover faster than we previously thought. JetBlue debuted flights out of two major United States gateways several weeks ago… two cities that previously there were no direct flights,” Mr. Bartlett added.
British Airways will operate twice-weekly flights on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
Mr. Bartlett said that the return of the airline to Montego Bay is a welcome sight for airport workers, many of whom have been out of a job since March as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It signals the return of hope and you could see how excited the workers were in seeing this flight coming in today,” the Minister noted.
British High Commissioner to Jamaica, His Excellency Asif Ahmad, who was on hand to welcome the flight, said that the relationship between Jamaica and Britain has always been a special one that comes with a lot of history and mutual respect.
“It is the kith-and-kin connection that we have with the 800,000 people of Jamaican heritage living in the United Kingdom (UK), who come here repeatedly and visit family and friends,” he added.