JO - Bruce's noble plans for Air Jamaica. 'We have to get the airline back on top and so far, we see things turning around slowly.'
Bruce's noble plans for Air Jamaica
'We have to get the airline back on top and so far, we see things turning around slowly'
BY TYRONE S REID Observer staff reporter
Sunday, November 16, 2008
BACK in the day, when new Air Jamaica CEO Bruce Nobles was just a teenager growing up in the US, his father tried to discourage him from following in his footsteps - describing the aviation industry as a "very tough" place to work. So much for that piece of fatherly advice.
From all accounts, the senior Nobles' attempts to keep his son away from the industry only served to heighten Bruce's curiosity. Fast-forward five decades and Bruce Nobles is not only a highly respected airline industry veteran and doting family man, but also an inspiration to everyday folks still finding it hard to follow their hearts and chase their dreams.
Newly appointed CEO for Air Jamaica, Bruce Nobles (right) chats with President of Jamaica Airline Pilots Association (JALPA), Captain Russell Capleton (left) and JALPA vice president, Dave Daniels. (Photo: Lionel Rookwood)
"I grew up in this business. My dad started working in aviation six months before I was born, and when I got older he used to tell me he didn't want me to enter the industry because of all the pressure it comes with. But I didn't listen," he told the Sunday Observer with a laugh, seated in his office at the Air Jamaica building in downtown Kingston.
Nobles, a short and modestly robust man with no airs about him, has always found delight in overcoming challenges. A native of Dallas, Texas, he is credited with leading the successful restructuring of Hawaiian Airlines, developing and introducing operations for the Pan-Am Shuttle and for creating and implementing operations for the Donald Trump-owned Trump Shuttle (now the US Air Shuttle).
In 2002, at the invitation of then majority shareholder Gordon 'Butch' Stewart, Nobles came to Jamaica to serve as president of our national airline. Six years later, he is ready to take on his biggest challenge to date - a second stint at the helm of Air Jamaica, which reported losses of approximately US$170 million in 2007 and has projected US$200 million this year - prompting the government to set a March 2009 deadline for the re-privatisation of the airline.
While Nobles is cautiously optimistic about the way forward, 'hope and change' is his mantra.
"Among the priorities right now is getting the airline to operate as best as it can. We are also hunting for financial partners to take on the airline, keeping in mind the March 2009 deadline that the prime minister has set. It's too early to say if we will be able to meet the deadline," Nobles told the Sunday Observer. "So far we are working with international advisors to find the right financial partners. But whoever buys the airline must keep the Air Jamaica brand and keep the legacy of the airline."
Nobles, who has already served more than four weeks in 'the hot seat', noted that at this time in the life of Air Jamaica, getting the airline to operate more efficiently - by generating revenue and lowering expenditure - is foremost on his mind.
"We have to get the airline back on top and so far, we see things turning around slowly. Since I took over [on October 8], our on-time performance has improved significantly as we've completed 99 per cent of our flights. Before, we were below the industry average which is sub-70 per cent. We want to be always better than the industry average," said Nobles. "Also, we desperately need to restructure our balance sheet. But in these times, it is difficult considering the worldwide financial crisis. But we plan to move forward by offering customers a good product, providing good value for money and by going where people want to go. Aeroplanes don't generate revenue on the ground so we have to be flying more."
With a labour force of approximately 2,200 employees, team work will be crucial to the future success and survival of Air Jamaica, according to Nobles.
"Teamwork is critically important in this business. I like to characterise an airline as a sports team. When everybody does their job right, the team wins. This airline has a lot of employees and everyone's job is important as well as the proper tools and direction to get the job done," said Nobles, who works with a team of vice presidents and a board of directors. "The airline business is very unforgiving of carelessness, and safety is an issue as well. That is very important to us."
In the meantime, Nobles, who is married and has a daughter (his family is based in Texas) says working with a supportive staff lightens the burden.
"I've been fortunate to encounter a lot of smart, genuine and warm people since I've been in Jamaica, and I've been overwhelmed by the positive response I've received since coming back," he said. "I am very impressed by loyalty to Air Jamaica that I have seen from the Jamaican people since I've been here, and that makes my job much easier. I have a great deal of affection for Air Jamaica and this country."