REDjet lands in Jamaica
AFTER MONTHS OF WAITING, REDjet flights to Kingston finally got off the ground today, with CEO Ian Burns indicating that his airline was in negotiations with authorities in that island to establish a base there.
Burns’ announcement came during a welcoming ceremony at the Norman Manley International Airport (NMIA), following the arrival of the inaugural Barbados-Jamaica flight which he said he was “thrilled beyond words” to see become a reality.
Disclosing REDjet’s plans for the future, Burns said the airline would establish a base in Jamaica once permission is granted and, in the meantime, add more routes to and from that Caribbean country over the coming months.
“[Lieutenant] Colonel Oscar Darby [director general of the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority] is here this morning and we’re working with him on doing that,” Burns said, adding that the airline wanted to establish as many bases as possible throughout the region.
Colonel Darby subsequently told the DAILY NATION that his discussions with Burns were at a very preliminary stage.
“So far he has had discussions on what are the possibilities and what is the process, so we have a team that we are putting together to hold discussions with him on the matter,” he said.
“They (REDjet) would have to meet the requirements of operating from that base under Jamaican regulations and all the safety and other regulatory requirements would have to be met.”
REDjet, as Airone Ventures Limited, had initially wanted to begin operations from Jamaica but aviation authorities there rejected their application for licences, resulting in the airline shifting its base to Barbados.
The country had also resisted granting the Barbados-based carrier approval to operate flights in and out of Jamaica and it was a turbulent several months for the airline as it fought to get the green light to enter that market. But Burns told the DAILY NATION he had no hard feelings against the Jamaican authorities.
During his address at the NMIA, Jamaica’s Minister of Transport and Works Mike Henry acknowledged that his country had taken into consideration its interests in competing carrier Caribbean Airlines, in which the country has 16 per cent share following the takeover of Air Jamaica.
However, he said, “as a result of a delicate series of negotiations, the right balance was struck” and he was “sincerely happy” to welcome the carrier into Jamaica.
“Had Jamaica rejected REDjet’s application to serve the country, there would have been a backlash of criticism of the rejection of an airline with a low-cost, no frills operational concept in these highly recessionary days,” Henry said.
Burns disclosed yesterday that over the first six months of operation, REDjet’s routes have broken even in four weeks of start up and reached profitability within seven weeks.
Yesterday’s inaugural flight to Kingston came a day after REDjet’s first Trinidad-Jamaica flight and a few days before the first Guyana-Antigua flight takes off on Saturday.
On board the flight were local entertainers, some of whom said the new service would provide them with cost effective travel, as well as several radio and television personalities.
Parliamentary Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister Senator Harry Husbands, representing the Prime Minister and Government of Barbados and Dr. Pauline Yearwood from the Ministry of International Business and International Transport were also among those on board.
REDjet’s new flight marks the first time a Barbadian airline has offered a direct service to Jamaica.