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A national carrier no more

Published:Saturday | May 1, 2010 | 12:00 AM

AIR JAMAICA, the little piece of Jamaica that flies, yesterday soared above the clouds for the last time under the management of the Jamaican Government.

Although the majestic Lovebird, with its radiant colours and trademark hummingbird on the tail, will continue taking to the skies, it is the Trinidad and Tobago-owned Caribbean Airlines that is now in charge.

Air Jamaica's unmistakable appearance may, however, fade within the next 12 months when Caribbean Airlines makes the full transition to put its own brand on what was Jamaica's national carrier.

In a joint statement from Air Jamaica and Caribbean Airlines, Air Jamaica's president and CEO Bruce Nobles and the CEO of Caribbean Airlines, Captain Ian Brunton, declared that the "little piece of Jamaica still flies".

"Customers and stakeholders will receive the same care as they have always been accustomed to, and operations will continue. Customers can keep flying on Air Jamaica with confidence," the statement said.

loss-making operation

The Jamaican Government backed out of the airline business, claiming that it could no longer afford to finance the loss-making carrier that had recorded losses in 40 of its 44 years of existence.

While the Government was unable to find a buyer, it entered into an arrangement with Caribbean Airlines to operate its routes in return for a 16 per cent share in the company.

The arrangement meant the closing down of Air Jamaica Limited, resulting in more than 1,500 persons being made redundant. Approximately two-thirds of these persons have been reengaged on short-term contracts by Caribbean Airlines.

Yesterday, Leader of the Opposition, Portia Simpson Miller, wrote to the staff of Air Jamaica, thanking them for their service.

"You have touched down for the final time, but just for now. Like the proverbial phoenix, each individual will find the strength to fly again," Simpson Miller said.