Is Fly Jamaica the new Air Jamaica?
Thursday, September 20 2012
THE question now reverberating around the Caribbean aviation fraternity revolves around the new kid on the block airline Fly Jamaica and it is: Is Fly Jamaica the new Air Jamaica?
With Caribbean Airlines in a state of limbo regarding whether or not it can continue to use its “One airline: Two brands” slogan and increased competition on its ex-Kingston flights to North America, the aviation atmosphere is heating up.
There has still been no official word from the Trinidad and Tobago Civil Aviation Authority (TTCAA) regarding the two brands matter, although the TTCAA has reportedly told CAL it needed to drop the Air Jamaica brand, because its Air Operating Certificate (AOC) did not allow the airline to operate two different brands
On August 31 last the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority handed the fledgling airline its Air Operating Certificate (AOC), in much quicker time that the Col Darby-led Authority saluted REDJet in its turn. According to press reports out of Kingston, much weather was made of the handing over as it became a hot button issue in Jamaica.
Whether or not there is animosity brewing between aviation authorities in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, has not yet broken into the public domain, but according to press reports in Kingston last week, it would seem that the Jamaican government, given the correct environment – increased level of investment by locals and additional aircraft – is willing to designate Fly Jamaica as the national airline of Jamaica, which would enable the airline to get priority on traffic rights.
But with Caribbean Airlines becoming the default national carrier of Jamaica following its acquisition of Air Jamaica, it would be quite interesting to see how this matter of designation pans out in the short term
But there is a side issue that is integral to Caribbean Airlines’ success in its Jamaica operations. Making the rounds in Jamaica is that CAL could lose its traffic rights out of Jamaica since it is being said the airline has not complied with the conditions spelt out by the Us Department of Transportation (DOT). Should this happen, it clears the way for Fly Jamaica. So far there remains a wall of silence on this matter.
Another issue that was brought into public focus a few weeks ago was the claim that CAL owed the Jamaica government some (J)$500 million. But at a meeting in Kingston between Jamaican officials and a high-powered CAL team some three weeks ago the issue was brought up and agreement was reached about a payment programme.
CAL’s acting Chief Executive Officer Robert Corbie admitted to Business Day there was a debt, but CAL has already paid almost half of it. It is expected that the matter was discussed again yesterday at a meeting at Iere House, Piarco between the same two parties. It is not known whether the matter of Fly Jamaica was on yesterday’s agenda.
It must be remembered that the aim of the new airline, as announced by its Chief Operating Officer Lloyd Tai was to aggressively go after the sizeable Caribbean diaspora business resident in the large North American cities of New York and Toronto.
Jamaicans, as I have noted before, are fiercely passionate and extremely loyal and the fact that Fly Jamaica came into prominence after the demise of REDjet and the complete takeover of Air Jamaica by Caribbean Airlines, is reason to take critical note of the aviation developments in our Caricom brother country. Even more interesting is the fact that the chosen name Fly Jamaica sounds mighty close to Air Jamaica
But Fly Jamaica’s entry into the tentative world of travel would not be a piece of cake. Apart from CAL, the Kingston-based carrier faces stiff competition from JetBlue on the New York run and from CAL and Canadian airlines Air Canada and WestJet on its Toronto destination.