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Airlines queue up for boom in travel to Jamaica

Published:Tuesday | April 20, 2021 | 12:15 AMJanet Silvera/Senior Gleaner Writer


Jamaica’s tourism sector is to get a shot in the arm from at least four major carriers out of the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States, introducing new destinations or a return to the island.

Virgin Atlantic will commence thrice weekly flights as of May 18, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, while British Airways– which returned to the Sangster International Airport (SIA), Montego Bay, in October 2020, after an 11-year absence, which was suspended within two months owing COVID-19 – is expected to commence its winter route six months ahead of plans.

British Airways will return in the summer instead as a result of the demand out of the UK, sources close to the airline told The Gleaner. Checks on their website show flights from London via American Airlines into Montego Bay. The UK airline code-shares with American Airlines.

US airline Frontier will offer three flights out of the Miami International Airport, a terminal dominated by American, while Eurowings Discover (Lufthansa) will fly out of Frankfurt, Germany, starting November 1, and Edelweiss will commence service from Zurich, Switzerland, come July 5.

Frontier has been titillating the appetites of travellers with low introductory rates, and aims to land on the tarmac at the SIA as early as May 28, 2021.

The news comes as SIA recorded a sharp decline of -50.7 per cent in total commercial passengers for the month of March 2021 in comparison to March 2020. The numbers were released Monday morning, showing, in the the largest drop in business coming out of Baltimore, Maryland, in the United States.

In the last two weeks since Easter, the numbers have picked up considerably, with several resorts reporting buoyancy and an uptick in bookings.

“Hotels such as RIU, Moon Palace, Royalton, Ocean Coral Spring and Iberostar Suites are doing much better than previous months,” Dave Chin Tung, CEO of Go Jamaica Travel, told The Gleaner.

“From what I am seeing, there will be huge inflows in May, June and July,” Chin Tung added, who stated he was already getting calls locally and internationally from groups wanting to book accommodation for 2022.

Last month, Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett told The Gleaner that the revitalisation of the industry was already in motion as some 800,000 airline seats become available for the summer, a number which is approximately 70 per cent of the level experienced in 2019.

“Pacing from the US and the UK have picked up significantly, against the expectation of increased vaccination in those countries,” Bartlett said.

In fact, the pace at which the US is going could see Jamaica receiving between 75 to 80 per cent coverage from that country, and the UK could be at 60 to 70 per cent. Both countries are two of Jamaica’s most important source markets.

It is not clear how soon the Canadian market will reopen as COVID-19 cases skyrocket in that country. Intra-regional travel is also at a standstill and with Trinidad and Tobago’s border still closed and the Brazilian variant now making its way into that Caribbean country, the uncertainty remains.