Airline targets first-class-only tourist flights to Ian Fleming
Miami-based QCAS Aero will operate a first-class-only charter service into the Ian Fleming Airport in St Mary from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, as of Thursday, June 16.
The aviation management company will operate an Embraer 145 executive-type aircraft on the route and will fly into Ian Flemming near Ocho Rios twice weekly, Thursdays and Sundays, with plans to move to scheduled flights as of December.
The announcement comes a week after American Airlines unveiled plans to fly into the same airport as of November.
However, QCAS's co-owner Rhean Ramdeen says it has been two years in the making since its officials have been meeting with stakeholders in St Ann and St Mary and with the Jamaica Tourist Board on several occasions.
Ramdeen says the aircraft has the capacity to carry 70 passengers but will only accommodate 30 clients first class. The majority of the passengers will be tourists.
A pilot by profession, the Trinidad and Tobago-born businessman said the decision to fly to Ian Fleming came after studied consideration because of the restrictions at the airport, including the length of the runway and existing infrastructure to accommodate passengers.
“We knew off the bat that we couldn't offer something that would bring 100 people at a time, or even 70 people. We know for a fact that the existing infrastructure cannot accommodate 70 passengers,” he said.
One of the distinctive benefits of QCAS Aero, said Ramdeem, is that its clients will not pass through the main airport terminal.
“That is huge!” he said.
The company, said Ramdeen, has been toying with the idea for 10 years and took the plunge, having found an aggressive partner in award-winning travel specialists, Go!Jamaica Travel.
The charters will operate from their private departure lounge at Fort Lauderdale International Airport, which maintenance engineer and partner at the company, Ronald Sammy, says obviates long lines or waits in traffic.
“The experience starts as soon as our clients bring their cars to the lounge. Our handlers will take their luggage for them. There will be a hands-on service from start to finish. Once you reach into the lounge, you are entertained with top-shelf beverages and fine Jamaican cuisine. Basically, it is a wine-and-dine experience,” said Ramdeen.
Go!Jamaica Travel has created a number of packages, inbound and outbound, including hotel, attractions, and ground transportation, the organisation's chief executive officer, Dave Chin Tung, confirmed with The Gleaner.
He said he is working with hotels such as Jamaica Inn, GoldenEye, Moon Palace, Couples, and GeeJam.
“It will be easier for persons staying on the eastern end of Jamaica to get to their hotels. This is ideal for the luxury markets of St Ann, St Mary, and Portland. QCAS Aero's first-class service will add to the uptick in tourism,” said Chin Tung.
And Ramdeen says the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) president, Clifton Reader, is excited by the prospects and has been very receptive.
“In reality, people flying into Montego Bay spend literally half a day trying to get there. Without that, we can put passengers in quicker and get them down to enjoy what they want to enjoy, such as a Red Stripe by the beach, and there is a lot of value in that,” said the QCAS co-owner.