Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Jamaican airspace again closed, set to reopen Monday morning

Published:Sunday | September 10, 2017 | 9:22 PM
This latest closure, the authorities say, will last 12 hours, as they progress with efforts to achieve full restoration of air traffic services at the Kingston Air Traffic Control Centre.

Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer

WESTERN BUREAU:
A plane en route to Jamaica from Spain had to be diverted, a Cayman Airways flight was forced to return to base and Canada’s Sunwing cancelled one of three trips, as the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA) again closed the Jamaican airspace Sunday night.

This is the second time in three days that the airspace has been closed.

Originally, the JCAA reported on Friday that lightning had damaged the radar communication system used by air traffic controllers.

This resulted in the cancellation of several flights at both the Norman Manley International and Sangster International airports, displacing approximately 10,000 passengers.

On Saturday, the JCAA restored limited service to accommodate incoming, outbound and over-flights within the Jamaican region.

This latest closure, the JCAA says, will last 12 hours, as it progresses with efforts to achieve full restoration of air traffic services at the Kingston Air Traffic Control Centre.

It is expected to reopen the airspace at 7 o'clock Monday morning.

Chairperson of the Board of Airline Representatives of Jamaica Yvonne Pearson was surprised by the announcement Sunday evening that the airspace was again being closed.

"We don’t even know if it was planned," she said, citing the flight cancellations and diversions.

Checks by The Gleaner indicated that air traffic controllers are uneasy and the temporary closure may be linked to this.

"I understand that the air traffic controllers say they have run out of work hours,” said one source.

In the meantime, Jamaica is losing millions of dollars to places such as Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; and Mexico.

Three Sunwing planes that were scheduled to arrive on the weekend, were forced to divert to Punta Cana and the flight Sunday evening from Spain went to the Dominican Republic.

There are now fears that Jamaica's plans to accommodate guests who were booked in hotels in hurricane-ravaged St. Maarten, could instead go to other markets.

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