British Airways returns to MoBay
British Airways has ended its 11-year drought with Montego Bay, bringing hope to the struggling tourism sector by introducing two weekly flights for the winter tourist season.
The flights herald the recovery of the tourism industry and a resurgence of the United Kingdom market, said Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett.
The airline’s return to Sangster International Airport was met with fanfare and jubilation by officials from the British High Commission, the Jamaica Tourist Board, and JAMVAC four days ahead of the start of winter, which commences officially on Wednesday, December 15.
Three hundred and twelve passengers, plus crew, disembarked last Saturday evening on the Boeing 777 aircraft that will operate between London Gatwick and the tourism capital Tuesdays and Saturdays until April 2021. Passengers have the option to book three cabins: Club World, Traveller Plus, or World Traveller.
“The fact that it originated out of Gatwick means the interest in flying to Jamaica came largely from British residents,” stated Bartlett, explaining that once the aircraft originates in Gatwick, it would also be bringing many Jamaican expatriates.
“So 300 passengers ... is a good start, I think, for us, because Sangster is really the hub, employing over 5,000 people in full swing,” reasoned the tourism minister, adding that more than 4,000 of these employees were actually out of a job, and the return of the aircraft signals employment prospects.
He cautioned, though, that despite the excitement regarding the return of economic activity, all steps must be taken by industry workers to protect themselves and ensure the observance of COVID-19 protocols.
“We are battling an existential event – a pandemic, and in battling it, we have to balance lives and livelihood,” Bartlett said. “So we have to make sure that the health requirements are all met, that health protocols are fully complied with ... because jobs have to be returned.”
British Airways’ Diane Corrie corroborated Bartlett’s comments, noting that safety was at the heart of the UK carrier and that the airline had introduced a strong range of measures to ensure consumer safety.
She was as excited as the tourism officials awaiting the full aircraft, pointing out how delighted they were to be back in Montego Bay.
“We look forward to bringing many visitors to Jamaica. We are very grateful for the support from our customers and partners and look forward to strengthening this important relationship,” said Corrie.
Asif Ahmad, the British High commissioner to Jamaica, who was among the greeters, concurred with Bartlett’s sentiments about COVID protocols being maintained.
Confident that as vaccinations become widely available in the UK the rate of infection would trend downward, Ahmad said he was optimistic that Jamaica’s other corridors would be restored.
Ahmad also called for more Jamaican merchants to use the flights to ship cargo to the UK.