By: Bevan Springer
NEW YORK – With summer airfares to the Eastern Caribbean out of the reach of many travelers in today’s recession, Bajans are smiling all the way to Barbados, their island home, thanks in large measure to Jamaica’s state-run carrier. Or maybe not all of them.
Air Jamaica, which is currently in the midst of delicate privatization talks which reportedly have Spirit Airlines, Caribbean Airlines and British tour operator Thomas Cook each contending for control of the carrier, has resumed service to the island for the busy Crop Over season through the end of August with two rather affordable weekly night-bird flights on Thursdays and Sundays.
Like anything in life, it takes a few moments to get accustomed to change, and in spite of some complaints about the late hour that the flights depart JFK Airport (about 1 a.m.), even the Doubting Thomases have expressed some delight about being welcomed to Barbados by the morning sun and taking in the cool, fresh morning air after a little more than four hours of sleep.
After experiencing the service to Barbados last week, I couldn’t help but record the reactions of one of my fellow passengers who surprisingly admitted his satisfaction with the early morning arrival which presented him with a full day to reconnect with friends and family and enjoy Barbados’ beautiful natural environment, including some of the finest beaches in the Caribbean.
But that was the extent of his optimism as his joy turned into sarcasm when he realized that at that same hour (around 6:30 a.m.), he would have to return to the United States, robbing him of a day of fun in the sun.
I attempted to convince him that an early departure would give him half a day in New York to unwind from his travels compared with the typical late night arrival into New York with little time to prepare for the next day’s work. After all, my assumption was that he was a traveler of the VFR (Visiting Friends and Relatives) variety and should not be concerned about missing a few hours of sleep in a hotel room.
Such logic appeared to miss my fellow passenger who facetiously wished me an enjoyable half day on my return to New York as he was whisked away en voiture to begin his Bajan vacation.
I am pleased to report that in spite of the brother’s disposition, I had a most enjoyable return trip to the United States. The immigration hall was empty, my baggage arrived in reasonable time, and after collecting my car from the parking lot, I realized I had enough time to attend a 1 p.m. Sunday afternoon Brooklyn church service after a tasty serving of brown stew chicken at a neighboring Golden Krust eatery. Not to mention, having the entire afternoon to relax just as I had anticipated.
“We are of course very happy that Air Jamaica has made these flight commitments,” said Richard Sealy, Barbados’ Minister of Tourism. “Barbadians who live outside the island look forward to vacationing at home especially during Crop Over, and are significant to our tourism strategy. We are thrilled that Air Jamaica is making it easy for them to travel to our island during this period.”
“This is a great opportunity for Air Jamaica to serve the Caribbean and we know these flights will have a huge impact. Our schedule allows passengers to arrive in Barbados early in the morning so they will enjoy the entire day with friends and family,” said George deMercado, the airline’s Senior Director, Global Sales.
Congratulations are due to the Barbados government and Air Jamaica for collaborating on this summer service, albeit seasonal, offering air and hotel packages starting at US $500 per person through STS Vacations.
It’s the kind of stimulus that makes sense to us the peoples of the Diaspora.