Barbados losing Air Jamaica but replaced by JetBlue Airways
Barbados will lose one of its essential scheduled US air links this April but could gain an even more formidable replacement by year’s end.
Financially-strapped Air Jamaica, which is said to be losing money at a rate of over US$150 million a year, has announced that it is cutting its New York – Barbados service with effect from April 23rd, 2009.
The Barbados government, however, says talks are in an “advanced stage” for US-based budget carrier, JetBlue Airways, to begin flying to the island by the start of this year’s winter tourist season.
Air Jamaica, currently owned by the Jamaica government, is looking for a buyer to make it viable and reduce the company’s debt, said to be in the billions of dollars.
The Jamaica government has announced it has received an “indicative offer” from an unnamed International airline group, and a follow-up meeting is imminent.
“We anticipate that we will be able to advance the negotiating process quite substantially at that meeting,” said Senator Don Wehby, Jamaica’s minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Finance, and who has responsibility for Air Jamaica.
Meanwhile, Barbados Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy, is optimistic that the island will wind up with a better deal out of the US market, given the broad network serviced by JetBlue.
Sealy said that JetBlue’s extensive network of vacation packages, along with the airline’s reputation, should be “an excellent relationship for Barbados.”
JetBlue currently services more than 50 destinations in the United States, the Bahamas, Bermuda, and Mexico.
Minister Sealy noted, however, that Barbados was still in talks with Air Jamaica about providing specialized services for the island’s all-important “Crop Over” festival in the summer.
“All ties will not be severed with Air Jamaica,” Minister Sealy added. “We want a very smooth letdown with them, so while we are more than likely to work with American Airlines, we are also looking to work with Air Jamaica for the Crop Over season.”
Besides, discussions are underway with American Airlines, which flies out of John F Kennedy (JFK) airport, US Airways, which departs from LaGuardia and Delta Airlines, which operates from Atlanta, Georgia, to increase their services to Barbados.
Tourism is Barbados’ number one foreign exchange earner. Barbados tourism authorities estimate the island earned a record $2.4 billion from the sector in 2008, despite the on-going world economic turmoil and an estimated 1.1% drop in long-stay visitor arrivals for the 12-months of that year.
April 19th, 2009