Jamaica tourism minister defends American Airlines deal
The Management of Air Jamaica is livid over the Jamaica government’s decision to give American Airlines (AA) a US$4.5- million (J$324 million) guarantee to encourage flights to the island.But Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett says there is nothing wrong with the decision, which he says will not hurt Air Jamaica and will ensure that there are seats for approximately 156,000 more visitors to come to the island.
That is little comfort for outgoing vice-president of marketing at Air Jamaica, Paul Pennicook. “I fully understand and appreciate the minister’s attempt to bring seats into the island by giving a revenue guideline to American Airlines,” Pennicook, who will demit office a the end of the month, told The Gleaner. “But what I do not agree with is that this revenue guarantee is given to American on routes that are currently served by Air Jamaica, specifically Chicago.”
Pennicook, a former director of tourism, was also dismissive of claims that the current administration was following a long-established practice whereby Jamaica Vacations Limited (JamVac) provided guarantees to airlines. But Bartlett was unapologetic as he defended the deal. According to Bartlett, with nearly 3,000 new hotel rooms this year, the deal would help Jamaica ensure seat security out of North America. He said the decision to sign an agreement with AA was based on its ability to move persons from across North America to the gateways.