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Increased flight connectivity to boost passenger arrivals

Published:Wednesday | December 23, 2015 | 12:00 AMSteven Jackson
Sangster International Airport.

Sangster International Airport (MBJ), the island's busiest, should receive roughly 1.85 million passengers during the winter season, or about 5.9 per cent higher than the previous year, due in part to increased flight connectivity, according to Wednesday Business estimates.

"The success of the initiative will undoubtedly lead to economic benefits and growth in the tourism industry in particular, and Jamaica in general," Sitara English-Byfield, MBJ chief commercial officer, said in a release.

The winter season runs from December to April and will see an additional 104,000 passengers travelling through the airport, compared to previous winters, MBJ said. The airport facilitated 1.75 million passengers over the period December 2014 to April 2015, according to MBJ data.

"The growth being experienced is testament to the robust marketing initiatives by the Jamaica Tourist Board, which augurs well for the tourism industry and stakeholders," it said.

MBJ Airports said it has initiated a number of operational and structural changes for outbound and inbound passengers aimed at improving the overall customer satisfaction at the airport, including employing 20 additional customer service agents.

"The raft of changes in different sections of the airport highlights MBJ's commitment to continuous improvement, to enhance the customer experience at the airport and to maintain the title of the Caribbean's leading airport with high levels of passenger satisfaction," it added.

Some other improvements for outgoing passengers during the winter season include an additional X-ray machine to the eight it currently use. With an additional two immigration positions, incoming passengers can also expect to be processed faster.

The airport authorities have also added two green-line (nothing to declare) trestles in the customs/baggage claim area, as well as additional fans to provide better ventilation and barcode readers.

NEWFLIGHT

Earlier this month, the Pacific Airport Group (PAG), which controls 75 per cent of MBJ, indicated that it expects an increase in arrivals from the United States West Coast, Asia and Australia, based on a new direct flight from American Airlines which connects Los Angeles, California, to Montego Bay.

It is the first non-stop scheduled flight from that city to Montego Bay by any carrier since February 2009. That route was formerly operated by Air Jamaica, MBJ Airport management said.

"December 2015 will be the busiest month in the airport's history, with over 16,000 more passengers than December 2014," MBJ said. PAG controls some 75 per cent of MBJ with Vantage Airport Group, a Canadian firm, holding the remaining stake.

Sangster International received a total of 3.3 million passengers between January and November 2015, or 4.4 per cent higher than a year ago.

steven.jackson@gleanerjm.com