In the wake of losses totalling US$111 million (J$7.4 billion) last year, Opposition Leader Bruce Golding wants the Government to take a hard decision on the future of the national airline, contending that in its 36 years of existence Air Jamaica has only once made a profit, and that was in 1972.
He told his colleagues in Parliament yesterday, that he was disappointed that the committee set up to examine the operations of Air Jamaica did not take a "cold, hard, clinical look" at the airline and recommend serious options going forward.
Mr. Golding's comments came during debate on a motion requesting approval from the House of a US$125 million ($8.37 billion) loan guarantee to Air Jamaica. The motion was approved.
Said he: "This country cannot continue to sustain, to subsidise sacred cows, as much as those cows may be part of our national paraphernalia. We cannot continue to do that when there are critical pressing social problems."
Finance minister agrees
Finance and Planning Minister Dr. Omar Davies agreed with Mr. Golding that the country could not sustain an entity that was losing $100 million per annum.
However, he told the House that the Air Jamaica management team had presented him with a credible plan to reduce the airline's massive losses.
He said the projected savings in terms of reconfiguration was US$40 million, with another US$30 million to be saved from withdrawal from the London route, and additional earnings from expansion into other routes.
He said the first four months of this year had produced encouraging results when compared with the similar period last year.
"Let us look at their business plan, they have presented us with projections. Measure their performance against these projections," he said.
However, Mr. Golding remained sceptical about the airline's new business plan, noting that he had heard similar projections about the airline in the past that did not materialise, both under government and private ownership.