Air Jamaica inaugurates service to Belize
Thursday, November 21, 2002
If our next story has a familiar ring to it, it's because two weeks ago
we went through a very similar exercise. The airline in question was
U.S. Air; today it's Air Jamaica inaugurating virtually identical
four-times-a-week service between the U.S. and Belize via its Montego
Bay hub. But while for many people one airline is as good as the next,
for Belizeans--almost a quarter century without an airline of our
own--the island of Jamaica has always held a special fascination. And
that kinship also appears to extend to its national carrier. Having made
the trip to Charlotte, North Carolina, earlier this month, on Wednesday,
News 5's Jacqueline Woods embarked for Montego Bay. It may be the last
time any Belizean will have to fly through Miami to get there.
Jacqueline Woods, Reporting
It took over a year to finalize, but Air Jamaica has made it possible
for Belizeans and visitors alike to fly directly for the first time to
Allen Chastanet, V.P., Marketing and Sales, Air Jamaica
"Belize is part of CARICOM, and a lot of people in the CARICOM don't
know that. And at present, a lot of people who are from the CARICOM need
to get a U.S. visa in order to go to another CARICOM country. So our
flight is also going to be very much going after Belizeans looking to go
to the other parts of the Caribbean, and also, members of CARICOM who
are looking to come to Belize."
And that's just what we in the media had to do to make it to Jamaica for
the first flight.
"Well, guys we really can't complain for us here in the media, after all
after arriving here in Miami, Air Jamaica went all the way out to give
us first class treatment by sending us our limousine driver Billy to
pick us up here at the airport."
"You're a Jamaican, you've been living in Miami for the past fourteen
years, how do you feel about Air Jamaica's inaugural flight to
Billy Brown, Limo Driver
"I believe, Air Jamaica is doing the best around the Caribbean."
"Making it easier for people to access Caribbean countries?"
Billy Brown, Limo Driver
"Well thanks for the enjoyable ride Billy."
Billy Brown, Limo Driver
"You're always welcome when you come to Miami."
The following morning, the Belize delegation, led by B.T.B. director,
Tracy Taegar departed for the airport. The next stop...Montego Bay, the
hub of Air Jamaica.
"The U.S. carriers were already allowed to come in as often as they
wanted to from as many states as they wanted to, and they were also able
to go and fly through Jamaica to connect passengers to other Caribbean
islands, Central American and Latin American points. We were being
penalized because we were only limited to flying to twelve cities in the
United States. And we were part of the CARICOM discussion and CARICOM
has some issues, which I think it's going to take a while for them to
resolve. But meanwhile, we want to grow, so it was very prudent this
time for Jamaica just to go ahead."
At Mobay's Sangster International Airport there was a ceremony before
the first flight departed for Belize. Taegar says she is optimistic
about the new service.
Tracy Taegar, Director, B.T.B.
"It helps to bring us a little closer to the Caribbean, and certainly
some of our markets in the north coast. There's a connection to Mobay,
Mobay direct to Belize and I think that will open up this eastern
seaboard and really helps us in terms of regional traffic. There's a big
programme right now with the C.T.O. and inter-regional Caribbean travel,
and we haven't been able to benefit from that because we don't have the
air connections. So I think that's going to open up a new market for
But no one could have been more happy about the new service than the
first passengers themselves.
"I've been waiting for it for a long time because I go there on business
and right now I have to go to Miami, wait, get on another plane, so I've
really been waiting for this for a very long time."
"Well I feel good because I used to fly with Air Jamaica and I've gone
to Belize several times, I lived there and I'm going back there to live
now, so it's a good time to put two together."
"Well, I think it's exciting. As a Belizean a connection to Jamaica is
obviously something I'd be very excited about."
"It's my first going there. I'm with my two cousins and I'm going to
look for my uncle who lives there and it will allow me an opportunity to
go there more often."
"I'm very excited about it, being a Belizean and having worked for Air
Jamaica for nineteen years; this is finally like a dream come true for
me. But not only that, I think it's good for the company because the
tourism market in Belize has grown tremendously and I think it will
Allen Chastanet, Vice President of marketing and sales for Air Jamaica,
says recent events have made people uneasy about flying but says the
airline is doing what it can to help bring back the joys of air
"A lot of people travel has become more of a burden than it is a joy,
and that's one thing that Air Jamaica is trying to do, to bring the
glamour back to flying."
"That's what we noticed on our way over here from Miami."
"I'm glad. Complementary champagne, complementary beer, complementary
wine, two hot meals you can choose from. We really spend a lot of time
training our staff in terms of being friendly, and we're very proud
about being Caribbean."
One proud Caribbean man was Captain Lascelle Samms. Samms, who has been
with the airline for twenty years, had the honour of piloting the first
Captain Lascelle Samms, Air Jamaica
"It's a flight that was there on my block and I'm here to do the flight,
so I'm quite pleased."
It took only one hour and thirty-five minutes for the aircraft to touch
down in Belize. Once safely on the ground, as the plane taxied to the
apron it was blessed with water sprayed by the P.G.I.A.'s fire fighters.
At the airport, there was another ceremony for the arrival of the
inaugural flight...and various festivities will be held throughout the
weekend. Air Jamaica will fly to Belize on Tuesdays, Thursdays,
Saturdays and Sundays. Jacqueline Woods for News 5.