Two Caribbean airlines become one … finally

Days before the deadline for a notice of closure of one of the largest aviation mergers in the Caribbean, Caribbean Airlines has finalized its acquisition of Air Jamaica.

The deal was made official at the office of the prime minister in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad.

Trinidad and Tobago Minister of Finance Winston Dookeran and Jamaica Finance Minister Audley Shaw signed the agreement, witnessed by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, and Works and Transport Minister Jack Warner.

The Jamaica government will now have a 16-percent stake in the Trinidadian airline and a representative on the Caribbean Airlines board of directors.

Shaw indicated that the outgoing chairman of Air Jamaica, Dennis Lalor, has been nominated by the Jamaican government as a candidate to be the Jamaican representative on the Caribbean Airlines board.

Shaw noted from all reports he had seen, Air Jamaica was being managed much better. He stated that he has also seen a significant improvement to the Air Jamaica operations in the past months, which gives further encouragement that moving forward, the merger will be a success.

Caribbean Airlines has been actively integrating its operations with Air Jamaica in the past year, with an accelerated integration program since December 2010 being implemented.

At the end of April, the airline gave permanent Caribbean Airlines contracts to more than 500 Air Jamaica workers, as the airline continues its integration strategy of “One Airline, Two Brands.”

The full integration, which includes an all-Boeing fleet, servicing both the Caribbean Airlines and Air Jamaica brand, is expected before the end of the year.

Caribbean Airlines Chairman George M. Nicholas III said that the event marks a year of hard work since the initial commitment made on April 30, 2010.

“We look forward to completing the transaction with the issuance of the shareholder’s certificates and to having the Honourable Mr. Lalor on the Caribbean Airlines Board,” he said.

“We have much to gain from his business acumen and his input into our operations,” he added.

“We want to officially welcome the Air Jamaica family to Caribbean Airlines, and I am confident that we can realize the growth opportunities that are now present with us being ‘one Caribbean airline’. A truly Caribbean airline will now be of service to the Caribbean and its people,” Nicholas continued.

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