Fly Jamaica bucks odds, buys new plane

Perhaps its Afro owners are crazy or simply know what others in the regional aviation industry don’t.

The Guyana-based Reece family which operates Fly Jamaica Airways in the past week threw a Boeing 767 aircraft into service joining the smaller 757 it had acquired for its launch between Kingston Jamaica and New York and onwards to Georgetown, Guyana early last year.

Industry officials say that the airline’s management must be reading from an operating profit manual that larger carriers like Caribbean Airlines, Bahamas, and Suriname Airways do not have access to as it is expanding at a time when, for example, Caribbean is carrying losses estimated at US$100M annually.

The other two are operating with at similar advanced loss-making levels and would have long disappeared from the skies had it not been for sustained financial subsidies and other concessions from governments.

Authorities have argued with great success, that they are both too big and important to tourism-based economies to be allowed to fail.

Executive Director Ronald Reece and other managers say they are unperturbed and are moving full speed ahead both to acquire additional planes in the near future and to even expand to other routes like Montego Bay, Jamaica’s tourism capital, Barbados, and even some South American destinations apart from Guyana.

Ironically, the airline which has Reece says has received not a penny in subsidies or concession loans from any Caribbean trade bloc governments, has the distinction of being the only privately owned commercial jet service operating in the region and has not been complaining, at least not yet, about operating losses that could undermine its future operations.

Additionally, management has also moved to buck industry trends by not leasing plans.

“We own both of our aircraft,” a beaming Roxanne Reece told reporters in Guyana at the weekend as the 767 made its maiden incoming flight to Guyana.

But as luck would have it, Fly Jamaica was able to cash in on left over patriotism and goodwill from the collapse of the late money-losing and problem-plagued Air Jamaica and its controversial take over by Caribbean Airlines.

Jamaicans have embraced it as the replacement national flag carrier and have been supporting it in numbers. This has allowed that route to subsidize others like the New York and Kingston to Guyana leg and the under promoted Guyana-Toronto, Canada non-stop service.

As well, hundreds of pilots, engineers, ground handling, maintenance and check-in staff were on the bread line and easily available compared to the Guyana home base of the Reece aviation clan.

Jamaica is also rated as a “category one” country compared to Guyana which recently lost its FAA rating. Flights from Kingston operate non-stop to New York.

Those from unrated Guyana must comply with FAA regulations and transit Jamaica or won’t be allowed to land in the U.S., a development which has angered some of the carriers operating out of Georgetown.

To circumvent FAA regulations, Caribbean Air originates in N.Y. flights at home base in Trinidad, hop its passengers 45 minutes south to Guyana, and they fly not-stop to the U.S. ensuring its service did not originate in FAA unrated Georgetown.

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