Fly Jamaica will commence operations in Guyana with a flight from JFK New York to Guyana on Thursday.
However, Fly Jamaica is concerned about the spate of narco-trafficking in Guyana and the transit of drugs through the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, saying it will have to take measures to ensure the airline is not affected.
Speaking yesterday at a press conference held at the Wings Aviation building at the Ogle International Air-port, Roxanne Reece, Direc-tor of Finance and Commerce at Fly Jamaica, said that the airline was lumped together with Caribbean Airlines Limited by a group of US airlines which protested the expansion of the two regional airlines. She said that had it not been for this protest, the airline would have commenced its operation weeks ago.
She said that the US authorities informed the airline that the processing of the final set of documentation will take between 60 and 90 days. “Fly Jamaica applied to do direct flights to George-town because we realise that Guyanese people were suffering terribly. Two days after we applied I think [Caribbean Airlines Limited] applied. Unfortunately Fly Jamaica was then grouped with CAL and our application was objected [to] on the grounds that CAL was receiving a subsidy from their government. Fly Jamaica has unfortunately never received a subsidy from anybody. We are a private airline…we don’t have any financial arrangements with any government. It was an unfortunate incident where we were linked with CAL,” Reece said.
“We were all set to start those flights in July. We are hoping that the matter will soon be resolved. We were told that it will take 60 to 90 days so we are hoping to hear something that will be positive. In the meantime we are still providing a service from JFK to Georgetown – a non-stop service which we are permitted to do. And we will be returning the passengers via Kingston to New York. That is the best that we can do at the moment,” said Reece.
She said that the many applications had to be reviewed by various governments. “There were what you call administrative delays,” she said.
Reece said that Fly Jamaica owns its own aircraft – a Boeing 757. “And we are in the process of buying a Boeing 767,” she continued, noting that it would take three months from the time of acquisition of the aircraft to the time it is allowed into service.
She noted that the airline has an arrangement with an aircraft leasing company which would allow for a plane to be supplied should anything go wrong with the aircraft owned by Fly Jamaica. “We will be doing long-haul flights of three hours and above and we hope to have partnerships with other air carriers for short haul flights,” she said. “We want to form an alliance with all the other airlines in the region because we feel that there is enough business in this part of the world for everybody,” she said.
Reece said that while there are no plans to go to Heathrow or Gatwick, there are plans to add Fort Lauderdale and northern Brazil as destinations. She said persons could call the company’s call centres which would be open on a 24-hour basis.
Asked how it is that the airline will make itself competitive, Reece said Fly Jamaica is trying to offer a lot more than a normal, traditional legacy airline will offer. “For example we are going to be doing a lot of events between here and Jamaica. We are planning gospel concerts and [other events]. We have a gospel concert in Jamaica in October and we will be inviting everybody in Guyana, Toronto and New York to come. It is going to be huge,” Reece said.
“So we are not just sitting and waiting on passengers to come to us. We are coming out there and offering you different events in the four destinations. We are offering you cooking tours, sports tours. It is not just selling seats. We are selling tourism. We are selling opportunity for Jamaicans to come to Guyana and for Guyanese to go to Jamaica and enjoy the beaches and the things that we don’t have in Guyana,” she said.
“You will be able to win free seats, free tickets to concerts, so it is really going to be very different to your traditional legacy airline,” she said.
“Once you guys go to Jamaica you will be hooked,” she said, throwing out an invitation for Guyanese to visit the ‘land of wood and water.’”
She said that the airline has a very loyal following as is demonstrated by its Facebook page. “The Jamaican people have really embraced Fly Jamaica as their own, which it is. And they are willing to share it with the entire Caribbean,” she said.
She said that people complain that they are not prepared to spend the long hours and do the island-hopping that is entailed in travelling between the two countries.
The airline will from September 26 commence a non-stop service between Kingston and Georgetown, and from September 27 a non-stop service between New York and Georgetown. From October 8 the airline will commence a non-stop service between Toronto and Georgetown.
“With a flying time of just over three hours non-stop between Kingston and Georgetown, anyone can now experience the natural wonders of Guyana, or enjoy the amazing beaches and culture of Jamaica,” a statement said.
“Non-stop flights between New York and Georgetown, and Toronto and Georgetown mean less time spent getting to your destination and more time spent enjoying your vacation,” it said. It said that passengers from Guyana will arrive at Terminal 1 at JFK, allowing for easy connections to other international destinations throughout Europe and the East from the same terminal. “In addition to boosting regional tourism the new routes will open up opportunities for business in all four destinations,” the statement said.
The airline offers passengers 12 luxurious business class seats and 186 roomy premier economy seats, complimentary meals, in-flight entertainment and two free checked bags and one piece of hand luggage.
Asked about the drug trade which uses the airport as an exit point, Reece replied she would like to see a security system at the CJIA that is more efficient and reliable. “Of course it is all based on the salaries you pay people and the level of people that you employ. It is unfortunate that in Guyana we have so many issues with drug smuggling. We are making all effort to try to make sure that we don’t have those problems. My husband [Fly Jamaica CEO Ronald Reece] and I have lived in Guyana all our lives and we do know where the holes are. But it is going to be a very difficult job to keep on top of. Everybody is expecting it to be tough work. We are putting measures in place to try and make sure that everything runs smoothly,” Reece said.
Passengers are asked to check with the airline’s website for schedules and reservations.