Tourism, travel boost

Airlines says it is now ready to operate scheduled service from Miami to Ocho Rios and has set February 24, 2024 as the launch date that will increase to more than 100 the carrier’s weekly flights between the United States and Jamaica.

“Service to Ocho Rios will operate twice weekly with an Embraer 175 aircraft with capacity for 76 passengers, connecting with American’s hub at Miami International Airport,” the airline said in a release on Thursday.

The flights will come into Ian Fleming International Airport and Jamaica’s Tourism Minister Ed Bartlett has expressed pleasure at the development which is expected to provide a significant boon to tourism and air travel among Jamaicans in that section of the island.

“We are delighted with American Airlines’ decision to introduce a new service to Ian Fleming, serving an area I call Jamaica’s Riviera,” Bartlett said.

“This marks a significant milestone in Jamaica’s ongoing journey to strengthen its position as a premier and easy to get to tourism destination. The introduction of this route is also a positive one for our stakeholders in St Ann, St Mary, Portland and beyond as it will greatly enhance the accessibility of Ocho Rios, making it more convenient for travellers to explore the wonders of these beautiful areas,” he added.

The carrier’s Vice-President for International Operations José A Freig was quoted in the release as saying, “With this new route we further strengthen our position as the leading airline in Jamaica, operating this winter more than 100 weekly flights to the US.”

American explained that the new service will represent the launch of its third destination in Jamaica as it currently offers service to Kingston from Miami and to Montego Bay from Miami, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Charlotte, Dallas/Fort Worth, New York, and Philadelphia.

Freig said the Miami to Ian Fleming Airport service will make American the first US airline to offer access to that gateway in Jamaica, which he described as a “Caribbean paradise”.

The service was originally scheduled to begin in November 2022. However, a month before news emerged that American requested additional air navigation services to operate its aircraft to and from Ian Fleming International.

At the time, the Government disclosed that American Airlines had been working with the Airports Authority of Jamaica (AAJ) and the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA) towards ensuring that all the necessary regulatory and supporting structures and arrangements were in place to facilitate the flight.

“However, despite continued work to make this a reality, an agreement was reached to postpone the launch of the service to a later date than originally announced,” the Government said.

Although exact details of the required additional facility in the airport have not been revealed, the Government explained that air navigation aids are to ensure consistency of service during periods of unstable weather conditions after commencement of operation.

The Government had noted in its statement that what was needed exceeded what existed at the airport.

“Notwithstanding all the stakeholders’ best efforts, the implementation of these additional measures to meet American Airlines’ requirements would take another six to seven months,” the Jamaican Government said at the time.

It added that the Ministry of Transport and Mining was “committed to having the outstanding measures addressed within this timeline, while keeping the relevant parties abreast of the progress, to ensure that planning and implementation can be synchronised”.

“The collective decision of American Airlines, the AAJ and JCAA is to ensure that we maintain proper international standards for the safety of crew and passengers,” the statement said.

The Government had also said that the additional navigational requirements would be ready by April 2023 and American Airlines had promised to announce a new commencement date for its proposed inaugural flight.