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Sangster Airport expects boost from new American Airlines route

Published:Wednesday | December 16, 2015 | 12:00 AMSteven Jackson

MBJ Airport Limited, which operates the Sangster International Airport, expects to receive a bump in arrivals this winter season, based on a new route from United States carrier American Airlines, which will open up arrivals from as far as Asia.

American Airlines will operate its first direct flight from Los Angeles, California, to Montego, Bay starting this weekend. It is also the first non-stop scheduled flight from that city to the airport from any carrier since February 2009. That route was formerly operated by Air Jamaica, MBJ Airport management indicated.

It's a "very significant development" as it will open the airport to new markets, said Sitara English-Byfield, commercial director, MBJ Airports, in a Wednesday Business interview this week.

"The route will open up connectivity to Asia, Australia, along with states along the West Coast, including Washington and Oregon, along with western provinces of Canada," she said.

Sangster International, Jamaica's busiest airport, received 3.3 million total passenger traffic between January and November 2015, or 4.4 per cent higher than a year ago.

"We are looking for great things from this route," she said. "We expect 90 per cent to 100 per cent passenger-load factor from this route in the winter, and remain hopeful that the route will be viable enough so that more weekly flights will be added, with over 40,000 visitors from California alone each year."

The flight will operate twice-weekly flights, arriving on Saturday and Sunday, to Montego Bay.

Mexican owned Pacific Airport Group, controls some 75 per cent of MBJ with Vantage Airport Group a Canadian firm, holding the remaining stake.

"As of November, growth reached at 4.4 per cent, in line with estimates. During the upcoming winter season, the airport is expected to open up to important markets, such as Asia and Australia, due to the new route to Los Angeles by American Airlines," said Pacific Airport Group, revealing its outlook on Jamaica released this month.

steven.jackson@gleanerjm.com