Three days ahead of the start of the traditional winter tourist season, Jamaica Tourism Minister, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, elatedly welcomed the return of British Airways (BA) flights to Montego Bay. The first fully loaded Boeing 777 flight, BA2265 from London Gatwick, touched down at the Sangster International Airport late Saturday afternoon (December 12).
Joining Minister Bartlett in welcoming the capacity 332 passengers, as well as Captain Graham Dawkins and the flight crew, were British High Commissioner to Jamaica, Asif Ahmad, Executive Director of Jamaica Vacations, Joy Roberts, Jamaica Tourist Board Regional Director, Odette Dyer and British Airways Commercial Manager Caribbean, Diane Corrie.
Returning after an absence of 11 years, it was outlined that the BA flight will operate for the winter season until April 17, 2021 with a capacity of 31 Club World (Business Class), 52 World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy) and 250 World Traveller (Economy) seats. Thereafter, it will be operating a twice weekly schedule with flights on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
“This is a very good sign because it is starting for us the recovery of the industry, and certainly the British market,” said Mr. Bartlett as the beat of drums mastered by the group Children of the Drums, filled the hallway. The mix of passengers included Brits and Jamaicans from the Diaspora.
He was also cognizant of the importance of the flight in gradually adding to the return of jobs displaced earlier this year by the COVID-19 pandemic. He noted, however, “as we are anxious and excited about the return to economic activities, we have to recognize the responsibility that we have to manage this pandemic and to comply with the protocols that have been established.”
Mr. Bartlett said all workers in the industry had a responsibility to protect themselves and for its part, the ministry had invested in providing protective equipment for them. Also, “all the hotels have been responding extremely well to the need for the COVID-19 infrastructure that will enable us to not only be compliant but to reduce to a minimal, if not to zero, the incidences of infection.”
Responsible management by the tourism sector has ensured that since reopening in June, “the incidence of infection has been very, very low, if not at zero and the resilience corridors that we have developed are an example to the world of how to create a bubble that will protect both locals and international visitors alike,” said Minister Bartlett.
High Commissioner Ahmad said the significance of British Airways coming back to Montego Bay, adding to existing flights into Kingston, was that Montego Bay is important to Britain, and indeed the other way around as well. “It is the kith and kin connections that we have with the 800,000 Jamaicans that we have living in the UK and the tourists who come here repeatedly and visit family and friends; that is important,” he said.
Mrs. Corrie said British Airways has been flying to Jamaica for over 70 years and was “absolutely delighted to be back in Montego Bay.” She said Jamaica had many attractive assets, including its warm weather that people in the UK and in Europe wanted to get out and experience.