JG - Opportunity lost?
published: Monday January 15, 2007
Garwin Davis, Gleaner Writer
The national carrier Air Jamaica has reportedly lost a lucrative cruise shipping contract to a rival airline.
According to sources, cruise shipping giants Royal Caribbean had made a pitch to Air Jamaica officials for the airline to become the official carrier for the over 10,000 Jamaican workers employed to the cruise line. Air Jamaica, however, reportedly did not act on the offer which was subsequently snapped up by rivals American Airlines.
After repeated attempts to get a response from Air Jamaica, The Gleaner was told last Friday that only CEO Michael Conway could comment on this and "he is out of office".
A Royal Caribbean source however, said overtures were first made to Air Jamaica and they were not acted on.
"The offer was for Air Jamaica to transport all vacationing Jamaican workers and workers from other Caribbean islands at the expense of the cruise line. This we thought would have been a good opportunity for the airline to fill many of its empty seats considering that the workers go on vacation all year round. The offer was made some time last year and I can tell you for a fact that American Airlines didn't need much convincing to grab the deal. I cannot comment on the exact dollar value of the contract but let's say that this was worth millions," the source said.
Steve Richardson, a Royal Caribbean employee said people were puzzled at first when they learnt of the arrangement. "I was asking myself why the Caribbean workers, especially Jamaicans, were travelling only on American Airlines.
"The cruise line is responsible for purchasing our round-trip tickets, usually from Miami, so we have no say in the matter. It was only recently that I was made aware that Air Jamaica was to be blamed for this. As a Jamaican, I can't help but wonder what is really happening with our national carrier."
According to Raymond Townsend, another Jamaican employee, this was but another of the many blunders since the Government has resumed control of the airline.
" I still cannot believe that we have to fly American and not on our national carrier," he said.