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Kingston's image hurting airport

Published:Thursday | October 2, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Earl Richards, president of the Airport Authority of Jamaica (AAJ), says the bad publicity that Kingston gets is partially responsible for passenger traffic at the Norman Manley International Airport (NMIA) being 3.5 million below its capacity.

"We are working as an airport with the major stakeholders in Kingston. One of the things we want to do is to change the whole profile of Kingston. When we travel to various meetings, conferences, we find that Kingston is given a bad rap, even by Jamaicans," Richards said.

Kingston is often portrayed as being overrun with violence.

The AAJ president told Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) that even tour operators "are not really sending people though Kingston as a matter of routine".

Passenger traffic through the NMIA, which sits on the doorsteps of Jamaica's capital city, was 1.45 million people last year, well below the estimated capacity of six million.

Richards said that other factors such as economic downturn has contributed to the low usage of the airport, but he expressed confidence that with improvement works, usage will go northwards shortly.

The Government is seeking to privatise the NMIA and has told the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that a request for proposal is to be issued in January 2015, with the selection of a preferred bidder expected by May 2015.

Richards yesterday said at least 12 entities have expressed firm interest in acquiring the airport.

"We expect that most of those will be part of a consortium, so as to how many consortia can be formed out of the group … is not known at this time," Richards said.

He told the PAAC that a steering committee held a series of conferences with potential investors, and following those conferences, there were requests for connecting airport operators with investors who have a particular area of interest.

"We have sent out an infor-mation memorandum. We have had the investor conferences, and we are at the pre-qualification stage," Richards said while adding that the pre-qualification document is about to be dispatched, after which the full picture will emerge as it relates to the pace at which the divestment will proceed," Richards said.