Wed | Aug 23, 2017

Air traffic controllers' actions impact airlines' performance ratings

Published:Tuesday | April 19, 2016 | 4:00 AM

Western Bureau:

The Board of Airline Representatives of Jamaica (BARJ) says its members are being hampered significantly by the constant strike actions by the island's air traffic controllers (ATCs).

Citing cancellation of flights, delays and the costs associated with the inconvenience, the organisation, which represents International Air Transport Association members, told The Gleaner last weekend that their reputation of delivering on promises of on-time performance was being eroded by the actions of the ATCs.

"Aircraft are often left in holding pattern waiting to land or on the ground waiting to depart. It records as a delay for the airline service when reports are sent to the Department of Transport," said BARJ Chairman Yvonne Pearson.

According to her, customers read these reports and tend to choose airlines based on "on-time performance".

"It's a negative impact on our statistics and rating. Aeroplanes are also burning costly fuel during this activity, adding up crew duty time, and ground employee duty time has to be extended, so labour costs are increased," Pearson pointed out.

ANNUAL FLIGHTS

Some 35 airlines operate at the busy Sangster International Airport, equating to an average of 27,000 flights annually.

The stories behind the causes of delays are horrifying, with BARJ revealing that many of its customers miss their connections.

"Crews cannot get to the other flights they need to work that day. Substitute crews have to be brought in. Each aircraft is designated to run several routes in a day. If the airline finds it possible, they need to find substitute aircraft. If not possible, then other down-line flights are delayed awaiting the equipment, and it creates a domino effect for the day," said the BARJ chairman.

Pearson gave an example of the effect.

"One plane tail number X2040 may operate Montego Bay, Miami, Washington, Toronto, New York, Miami, Bolivia, all in one day. The delay in or out of MBJ will affect the airline operation for the entire day and cost the airline at each point," she stated.

Even flights not landing here are affected by the strikes, as aircraft have to burn more fuel taking a longer route to avoid Jamaican airspace.

In this case, the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA) and the Government of Jamaica lose the revenue, as all airlines using the airspace have to pay, regardless of whether they land or not.

Efforts to get a comment from the JCAA proved unsuccessful.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com