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December 11, 2008

Slashed Air Fares for Air Jamaica


by Barbara S. Peterson

Air Jamaica's new chief was in New York this week to reassure passengers and investors about the airline's future, despite recent speculation that its days were numbered. Bruce Nobles, an airline industry veteran, told reporters that the airline is definitely in the game for the long haul. When I spoke to Nobles earlier this week, the Jamaican flag carrier had just announced a big sale, slashing fares by as much as 40 percent for trips between January 9 and March 31.

The carrier, which the Jamaican government has said it wants to privatize, has been around for nearly 40 years, but lately it's been battered by the same forces sending other airlines into the red. Traffic is down between 10 percent and 15 percent. Nobles, who has run airlines as diverse as the Trump Shuttle and Hawaiian Airlines, said his role now is to get the airline in good enough shape to attract a well-heeled investor. "We're focusing on getting the airline right-sized and profitable," he said. "But our overriding objective is to get the airline back on time"--an allusion to the airline's somewhat less-than-stellar on-time performance. Nobles has already made his mark there: On-time performances were greatly improved in November. 

The airline expects to carry about 1.6 million passengers this year, about the same as last year. But planes should be fuller since the airline stopped flying to London, retiring its A340 widebodied aircraft and leaving itself with a fleet of 14 narrowbodied jets. On the plus side, other airlines are cutting back in the Caribbean and, Nobles said, "we've got a real opportunity here" to strengthen the brand. Its most popular routes are from Jamaica to New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Orlando as well as to Canada.

Further reading:
* Check out Air Jamaica's Web site for major deals
* On the Fly: The airline industry


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