Tourism Minister Defends Airlift Decision


Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett has defended the Ministry’s decision to take swift action to secure Jamaica’s airlift capacity, given the serious dilemma with which Jamaica was faced and the possibility of an airlift crisis.
Making his presentation in the 2010/11 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives on April 14, the Minister stated that toward the end of 2008, the Caribbean faced an aviation crisis when American Airlines announced that they would be dismantling the Puerto Rico hub and cutting services to the Caribbean.
“In the case of Jamaica, they stated their intention to withdraw a number of routes, including Dallas, and Miami and reducing their frequency out of New York. It must be clear, that combined with Air Jamaica’s announcement of its divestment plans and its rationalisation programmes, there was great uncertainty in tourism circles in Jamaica and in the marketplace,” Mr. Bartlett said.
“It was imperative that we took swift action to secure Jamaica’s airlift capacity, given the serious dilemma with which Jamaica was faced and the possibility of an airlift crisis,” he added.
The Minister said the decision to enter into arrangements with American Airlines to retain important gateways and to add the strategic gateway of Chicago, ensured the country’s strength in the important Midwest. “The alternative was to have no service for thousands of travellers,” Mr. Bartlett said.
He also informed that the flights guaranteed by the agreements with American Airlines yielded 74,070 passengers and the Chicago route made a surplus of US$181,000.
“Of the total guarantees of US$4.5 million, the net amount which will have to be paid is US$2.9 million. American Airlines is continuing to provide its services out of these gateways without any further commitment in 2010,” the Minister said.
Mr. Bartlett also informed that other Caribbean destinations spent between US$30 and US$40 million to secure far fewer air seats, which negatively impacted their arrivals.
“As it now stands, we have been able to adequately meet the demand, particularly over this winter season with the additional one million seats with a 70 per cent load factor. As a result, Jamaica is number one in the region, both in terms of growth and connectivity,” Mr. Bartlett said.

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