Mon | Sep 20, 2021

Travel to Jamaica rebounds during summer, but lower than record levels

Published:Wednesday | September 15, 2021 | 12:06 AMSteven Jackson - Senior Business Reporter
Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay.
Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay.

The volume of airline passengers in Jamaica hovers at one-quarter below record levels, which signals some recovery at least during summer months, according to traffic data released on Monday by the Pacific Airport Group, GAP, which controls Jamaica’s two largest international airports.

The total international passengers passing through Sangster International Airport, in Montego Bay, and Norman Manley International Airport, in Kingston, were under 2019 pre-pandemic levels by around 27 per cent in June; 29 per cent in July; and 27 per cent in August. Year to date, however, total passengers are down by half when compared to 2019 levels.

GAP operates 14 airports, 12 in Mexico and two in Jamaica. Its Mexican operations are overall down by 2.0 per cent when compared to 2019 levels. The group, in a release on its traffic figures, said that COVID-19 protocols were hindering growth, but that additional flights were coming on stream.

Jamaica registered its highest arrivals and departures in 2019 a year prior to the onset of the pandemic in 2020 which led to the partial closure of the travel industry.

“In relation to international travel restrictions, the United States requests that travellers must present a negative COVID-19 test for entry into that country; while Canadian government announced, with a tentative date [in September], international flights will be reopened for people who are fully vaccinated and who meet certain conditions,” GAP said.

Last year, CEO of MBJ Airports Shane Munroe predicted a 2021 recovery of between 50 and 75 per cent of 2019 levels for Sangster, which has occurred. GAP operates the Sangster Airport through MBJ Airports Limited.

In August, the performance showed that total international passengers at Sangster International was 293,400, or 27 per cent lower than in 2019 at 400,700, but 333 per cent higher than in 2020.

In Kingston, at the Norman Manley Airport, total passenger throughput was estimated at 97,300, but the comparative 2019 figure was not available from GAP, which took over the airport after that date. Passenger movement was 103 per cent higher than 47,800 in 2020 at the Kingston airport.

In July, the international passengers at Sanger International totalled 314,300, or 29 per cent lower than in 2019 at 442,000. It was also 435 per cent higher than 2020.

In Kingston, at the Norman Manley Airport, total passengers were 96,000 in July, but the comparative 2019 figure was not available. The July 2021 figure was 152 per cent higher than 2020.

In June, international passengers at Sangster totalled 284,300, compared to 391,300 in 2019, or 27 per cent less. The 2021 figure was 1,743 per cent higher than in 2020. At Norman Manley, total passengers were 79,100 in June. The comparative figure was not available for 2019, but it was 451 per cent higher than in 2020.

Year to date, from January to August 30, arrivals at Sangster International and Norman Manley International were both above 2020 pandemic lows, up 23 per cent and 7.0 per cent, respectively. But Sangster International is still down by about 53 per cent when compared to 2019 levels, with incomplete data for Norman Manley.

Jamaica operates three international airports, the third being an upgraded aerodrome called the Ian Flemming Airport. Ian Fleming offers a runway long enough for small jets but not most passenger aircraft. Data for that airport wasn’t immediately available.

steven.jackson@gleanejrm.com