Mon | Oct 16, 2017

Fly Jamaica grows passenger loads

Published:Thursday | April 13, 2017 | 12:00 AMSteven Jackson
Executive chairman of Fly Jamaica Airways, Paul Ronald Reece.

Fly Jamaica Airways said that the number of passengers choosing the airline increased by nearly a half over the past year allowing the airline to hold its own, according to Chairman and CEO Paul Ronald Reece.

The airline owner and pilot rationalised that customer loyalty would have been the main reason for the spike in business, as the company continues to operate the same number of routes.

"We got growth from existing routes based on increased customers' confidence and increased loyalty in the brand," said Reece. "So we are pushing on. The more people that fly with us, they like the service and want to come back," he told the Financial Gleaner.

Fly Jamaica currently employs 362 persons and recently attracted some Jamaican pilots back home from working in the United Arab Emirates.

In 2016, passengers flying the airline totalled some 135,830, up from roughly 93,325 a year earlier or 45 per cent higher year-on-year, according to Reece, who cited the figures from internally generated graphs during an interview at his Renfrew Road offices in New Kingston.

Comparative industry data for passenger load factors related to Jamaica either does not exist in the region, or in the case of United States carriers, the data lags six months.

The figures cited by Reece, however, represents growth for the carrier whose main competitors are Caribbean Airlines, JetBlue and American Airlines.

Fly Jamaica was founded in 2011 and started operations on February 14, 2013. In that first year, it carried roughly 50,000 passengers. Since then, its annual passenger loads have improved 172 per cent.

The destination routes flown by the airline include Kingston, Toronto, Georgetown and New York. It also recently flew a charter service from Venezuela to China. The airline operates mainly from the Norman Manley International Airport using two Boeing aircraft - a 757 single-aisle cabin seating 198 persons, and 767 twin-aisle cabin seating 246.

"We still have seats available; we are not flying full on every flight. So seats are available from North America and South America," he said, while declining to give the passenger load factor, a key metric of passengers compared to available seats.

Asked whether the airline was making money or breaking even, Reece responded: "We are holding our own."

Fly Jamaica continues to examine the feasibility of adding Fort Lauderdale as a route, but it would require a substantial investment in two smaller aircraft to boost the fleet.

"In order to do Kingston to Fort Lauderdale, we would have to do a daily service, which would require two 737-800s in order to go back and forth," he said, explaining that two are needed for redundancy.

He did not give a timeline for the acquisition, but noted that the airline was considering its options.

In January, Reece said at the JSE Capital Markets Conference that he was considering listing the airline on the Jamaica Stock Exchange to raise financing for "four additional aircraft".

steven.jackson@gleanerjm.com