Air Jamaica soars

Here's what's up with this Caribbean carrier

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After celebrating its 30th anniversary this past April, Air Jamaica Ltd. is continuing to upgrade its services and is emerging as the primary choice for travel to the Caribbean. Among the latest features are excellent catering, a new fleet of planes, increased airplane capacity and more nonstop flights to the Caribbean than any other airline.

“Our goal is simply to become the best small airline in the world,” says Allen Chastanet, vice president of sales and marketing at Air Jamaica. “We want to take the stress out of traveling.”

A recent shift in ownership is responsible for the changes. In the past, when the airline was owned solely by the Jamaican government, it was overstaffed, underutilized and subject to flight delays. Today, however, a majority of the business’ ownership has changed hands.

Approximately four years ago, a group of Jamaican executives known as the Air Jamaica Acquisition Group purchased 70% of the airline’s stock.

Each week, there are over 330 direct flights between the Caribbean and popular U.S. cities. Direct flights are available from Atlanta, Baltimore, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, New York (JFK), Orlando and Philadelphia to both Montego Bay and Kingston, Jamaica. Other Caribbean destinations include Barbados, St. Lucia, Grand Cayman (Cayman Islands), Havana, Nassau (Bahamas), Grenada and, most recently, Bonaire.

Air Jamaica has a code-share agreement with Delta Air Lines that enables people from all over the world to easily connect with Air Jamaica from any of the 600 cities that Delta serves. There is also a joint fare agreement with United Airlines, TWA and US Air, which also share compatible flight schedules with Air Jamaica for extended access to 150 cities in the continental U.S.

You may also benefit from Air Jamaica’s extras, such as its Island Hopping program, which allows customers to visit two islands for the price of one, and its 7th Heaven plan, which enables frequent fliers to get a free round-trip ticket after completing seven Air Jamaica trips.

“We are definitely looking to expand our service to the Caribbean as well as to increase the number of U.S. gateways that we commute with,” says Chastanet. Besides providing better service to its customers, the airline has another mission it wants to fulfill. Adds Chastanet, “Since approximately 90% of our staff is from the Caribbean, we want to prove that a Caribbean company can be successful.”