Keisha Hill, Gleaner Writer
Fly Jamaica Airways is one step closer to officially begin operations in Jamaica.
Last Friday, after a nearly eight hour delay, the airline took to the skies, destination Georgetown, Guyana, with a mock demonstration of what customers can expect from the entity, once it is up and running.
The Sunday Gleaner team was among a group of persons invited for the demonstration process.
Just as with any other airline, we went through all the requirements necessary to board an aircraft. It was smooth sailing as we went through check-in and immigration, however, because of the rigorous checks and balances of the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA), the airline's crew did not receive clearance to do its checks and boarding of the invited passengers until after 5 p.m.
The Boeing 757 aircraft came under heavy scrutiny and was inspected with a fine-tooth comb to ensure that the required support systems and services were in place. Afterwards, we briefly observed the captain and his crew and in-flight services, including the smartly dressed air hostesses, preparing for what was a memorable flight.
The aircraft is expected to comfortably seat 12 first-class and 186 economy-class passengers.
Licence to operate
According to Chief Operating Officer Lloyd Tai, following a satisfactory demonstration, this airline will be given its licence to operate.
"We are required to conduct a normal flight for the process. This includes check-in and immigration as with a normal flight. We went through a comprehensive audit to ensure airworthiness but we are happy that we have been able to get the demo going despite the logistical issues," said Tai.
As the plane taxied down the runway to lift off, cheers of joy echoed from the crew and passengers.
It was a relief to those who had waited for close to a year to see this phase of the process begin.
"This is the first time that an airline in Jamaica has had to go through the full certification process. Air Jamaica was here before the new regulation so all they had to do was show conformity. We have to show that we have met all the standards of the local and international regulators from the beginning," said Tai.
According to Tai, after the aircraft returns to Jamaica, they will be debriefed on the issues, if any.
Interestingly, the process does not stop there as, upon the issuance of the licence, the airline has to prove 'economic authority', which is to show financial viability. "They (JCAA) have to ensure that we have the means to continue operating at a safe standard. This information we have already submitted."
He said the operators of the airline will also have to start applying for the routes that they want to service.
The airline plans to offer full service on the chosen routes between Jamaica, Guyana, Toronto and New York, which Tai believes will appeal to the diaspora concentrated in these areas.
He said, Fly Jamaica Airways will likely start with a three-on-three flight schedule to each destination, with one day downtime for maintenance.
Fly Jamaica was set to begin operations in August, however, Tai said with the remaining processes it is likely to take another month before the airline officially takes to the skies.