Wed | Oct 5, 2022

‘Let’s get back to business’

Travel industry reps welcome lifting of flight ban

Published:Saturday | May 8, 2021 | 12:05 AMGeorge Ruddock/Gleaner Writer

LONDON:

UK-based travel agents and tour operators have welcomed news that the four-month-long ban on flights to Jamaica has been lifted as of this week.

The restriction was part of plans to check the spread of the COVID-19 in the island and had already seen three extensions since December.

The April 30 reopening allowed passengers who were stranded in the UK over the period to head back home, while those needing to travel to Jamaica for business or emergency purposes may do so from this month.

Vino Patel, managing director for Caribbean Reunion Club, the largest ethnic tour operator to the region, said it was excellent news as persons can now feel more confident in booking their summer holidays.

He said: “This is very welcoming, as bookings were being held back because of the uncertainty. The airlines are ready to go with British Airways (BA) planning one flight per week for the first half of May before moving to twice per week, and eventually three flights per week by June into Montego Bay and Kingston.

“The first BA flight on May 5 is already fully booked and we know this trend will continue, especially with Virgin Atlantic scheduled to resume flights to Montego Bay, also this month.

“The protocols governing travel will still be in place, however, so we are telling passengers to get their PCR testing done before travelling. Jamaica hasn’t made it quite clear what will be required for arriving passengers, but we are still advising our clients to get the relevant tests to meet the requirements when they land in Jamaica.”

He noted that islands like Grenada and Barbados have already announced that, from May 8, fully vaccinated persons arriving there will only require a rapid COVID-19 test and, within 24 hours of a positive result, they won’t have any restrictions.

EAGER TO TRAVEL

Victorine Daley, an independent travel agent based in Birmingham who handles bookings for British Jamaicans, said: “Many people who had flights booked but had them cancelled are quite eager to go now that the ban has been lifted. There are people who usually travel to Jamaica twice per year and those plans were disrupted when the ban came in, so you can imagine they are eager to get going. I am also getting enquiries about Christmas travel already.

“This will be the positive step the industry needed as bookings for the banned period had virtually stopped because of the uncertainty. I think lifting the ban will give the travel industry the boost that was needed.

Laverne Walker, director of Sackville Travel in south London, agrees that the move is important to get the industry back on track.

She said: “People had to postpone funerals and events which they would have travelled home for or even those who have personal businesses to attend to. We are very elated that the ban has finally been lifted, as this will allow families to be reunited and other persons to take care of their affairs back home.

“We are specialists in the Jamaican holiday market so, from a business point of view, it has been devastating for us as we have not been able to fulfil our clients’ travel needs since December. While the other Caribbean destinations were open, it was Jamaica that totally banned the UK flights, so it was a huge setback for our business. We are glad the flight corridor has been reopened, so let’s get back to business,” she concluded.