Monday, October 25, 2010

Jamaica Air Shuttle eyes flights to Cuba and Haiti

Jamaica Air Shuttle eyes flights to Cuba and Haiti
Published: Monday | October 25, 2010
Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer

The upgrading of the Boscobel Aerodrome in St Mary has re-energised
talks of flights between Santiago de Cuba and Jamaica, says Jamaica Air
Shuttle Chairman Christopher Read.

Read, whose company is already approved to operate scheduled charters
into Cayman Brac, is currently awaiting the go-ahead by the Jamaica
Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA) to operate as Jamaica's designated
carrier into Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and has also turned his attention to

Under bilateral agreements with most of these countries and Jamaica,
each is allowed one carrier to serve between the destinations, and in
most cases, Air Jamaica is the designated carrier from the Jamaican
side. However, the former national carrier does not fly on any of these

"We have had several talks with the Cuban civil aviation and have now
submitted all our Jamaican approvals to the Cubans and are awaiting the
issuance of a permit," said Read.

The permit would allow access to all international airports in Cuba.

The Jamaica Air Shuttle head said there is an existing interest by tour
operators in Jamaica to reinstitute day tours for tourists between
Montego Bay and Santiago de Cuba, but there is no sufficiently regular
air service to support that market.

In addition, there are special-interest tourists and business groups
that require direct service from Jamaica to eastern Cuba, returning two
or three days later.

Importantly, there are 110 Jamaican students in Santiago, with no direct
means of getting there, even though the flight is a mere 50 minutes from
Montego Bay.

Chairman hopeful

Read said that by November 12, the 400 Jamaicans living and working in
Cayman Brac would have direct service to Sangster International Airport
in Montego Bay. And by December 1, the Haitian route should be up and
running, if not affected by unforeseen circumstances.

"Cayman Brac (CYB) was chosen as one of our first international
destinations for a number of reasons," Read explained. "It is the
closest island to ours - only 30 minutes' flying time from Montego Bay -
and there is no direct air service between CYB and Jamaica."

According to him, passengers are now forced to travel via Grand Cayman
to Kingston, then on to Montego Bay, which takes a full day of travel,
and sometimes an overnight in Grand Cayman.

"Most of the Jamaicans working in CYB are from western Jamaica and have
no need to travel to Kingston to get to Trelawny, St James or
Westmoreland," he argued, adding that CYB had been completely rebuilt -
hotels, condominiums, hospital, university, roads, power-generation
plant - since major damage by Hurricane Paloma.

"They need tourism to restart their economy and we see the Sangster
International Airport hub in Montego Bay as the ideal gateway for
attracting passengers from Europe, UK, South America, North America, the
Far East to travel quickly and conveniently and directly to CYB."

In the case of Haiti, Port-Au-Prince is a 70-minute flight from the
Norman Manley International Airport, versus an overnight journey to
travel through Panama or Miami, Read explained.

He said there was currently no way to travel to Haiti directly from any
CARICOM member state; passengers have to transit Miami or Panama to get
there. Both Cayman Brac and Port-au-Prince have significant time and
cost implications, Read argued, as well as requiring visas in most

Jamaica Air Shuttle is also eyeing Antigua in the Eastern Caribbean as well.

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