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Sangster airport operator boosts traffic, improves profitability

Published:Friday | March 4, 2016 | 3:00 AMCamilo Thame

The operators of Sangster International Airport boosted profitability on higher passenger traffic in 2015.

Pacific Airport Group (GAP), which took over the Montego Bay-based airport last April, reported net income of 231 million Mexican pesos (US$12.8 million) from 976 million pesos in revenue for the nine months to December 2015. That is a net margin of 24 per cent.

The previous operator, Spain-based Abertis, reported a 22 per cent net margin in 2014. Operating expenses as a percentage of revenue rose, however, from 60 per cent under Abertis to 67 per cent under GAP.

Passenger traffic grew by three per cent from year-earlier levels during the first nine months of operation under GAP, and increased by 4.4 per cent year-over-year for all of 2015.

The Montego Bay airport benefited from additional airlift in the second quarter of 2015 as Vacation Express commenced flights from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport to Sangster in the middle of May, increasing capacity out of Atlanta by six per cent.

Moreover, Southwest Airlines started daily flights from Houston on November 1. United Airlines, which currently services that route, historically ramps up the number of trips from Houston to daily flights during the summer months - more specifically, in June and July - before ramping it down for the fall months. So Southwest should have picked up the slack.

American Airlines commenced twice-weekly flights from Los Angeles to Montego Bay on December 18, albeit the Boeing 737-800 it plans to use for that service will translate into 300 more seats a week each way. American also introduced a new flight from Boston once a week.

During 2014, Sangster served 3.58 million terminal passengers of which 66 per cent were from the United States, 20 per cent from Canada, and 11 per cent from Europe, according to MBJ Airports. GAP reported 3.74 million passengers passing through the airport in 2015.

For 2016, the airport operator saw passenger traffic increase by 5.5 per cent over last year.

"This airport has benefited from an improvement in occupancy, driven by Southwest, Spirit and JetBlue continuing to grow their market share," said GAP in a filing to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). "Similarly, European charter flights have significantly benefited the airport, given the 10 per cent increase in passengers during January."

Domestic passenger traffic declined by 30 per cent, or from 1,000 to 700 travellers.

camilo.thame@gleanerjm.com