Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism stresses the importance of the Government’s agreement with American Airlines

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett, has reaffirmed that the agreement entered into with American Airlines is of tremendous benefit to Jamaica, as with nearly 3,000 new hotel rooms to fill this year, additional airlift is critical.

“The arrangements secured the Dallas/Fort Worth/Montego Bay, Jamaica (MBJ) flights, critical to our behind the gateway markets of the west, south, and northwest United States,” Mr. Bartlett said.

“The addition of the Chicago (ORD) route was critical to building our mid west market using the Chicago gateway. Though United Airlines and Air Jamaica served this route, the uncertainty of United Airlines and the resistance to Air Jamaica left the market dependent on charters, that were once weekly and only on a Monday. Though we were grateful for the Monday service, we could not grow our tourist market on such a frequency,” he added.

The Minister, who was speaking during a statement to the House of Representatives yesterday (Sept.16), stated that the additional Miami/MBJ flight compensates for the loss of the Airbus 280 seats “and we now have two B757/188 seats and a B737/148 seats.”

Meanwhile, Mr Bartlett reiterated that the agreement with American Airlines will, in no way, undermine the service provided by the National Carrier, Air Jamaica.

“A key reason for signing this deal, was the access to the feeder markets that American Airlines affords with over 200 flights daily. Last year, over 40 million people travelled through its Dallas hub, and over 20 million through its hub in Miami,” the Minister said.

He added that these numbers are “indicative of the extensive reach beyond the gateways, and the massive capacity that airline offers Jamaica. Access to these feeder markets is critical to building the business in Jamaica.”

“The industry depends on airlift out of the United States. This is true even for Spanish hotels that do not operate flights out of the United States,” Mr. Bartlett said.

The US$4.5 million agreement signed with American Airlines will guarantee well over 2,000 additional seats to the island. The deal comes ahead of the start of the 2008/09 winter tourist season, and at a time when the Caribbean is experiencing severe cutbacks in airlift.

“It should also be noted that under the arrangement, the Government is not paying out US$4.5 million to American Airlines, but has only provided a guarantee for additional seats, which I am confident will be filled,” Mr. Bartlett said.

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