Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-letter: September 22, 2005

AIR JAMAICA EXPRESS will suspend operations Oct. 14, due to record increases in fuel and other operational costs, ongoing turbulence in the aviation industry and a review of market conditions, which signaled diminishing returns, according to a statement released by the carrier. Prevailing market conditions point to diminishing prospects for the viable operation of the airline, said Leo Lambert, group communications director, Sandals and Beaches Resorts. Gordon Butch Stewart, chairman of Sandals and Beaches, has been the carriers major shareholder since last December. Prior to that, Air Jamaica Express had been managed by Air Jamaica, which had been controlled by Stewarts AJAG Group. AJAGs pullout from Air Jamaica put that carrier back into the control of the government, leaving Air Jamaica Express under the control of Stewarts ATL Group. Air Jamaica Express connected Jamaicas airports in Montego Bay, Kingston and Ocho Rios and also served the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and the Turks and Caicos, using 37-seat Dash 8-100 aircraft. Lambert, however, did leave open the possibility of new things to emerge, hinting that the suspension could be just that -- a temporary stoppage in service while the situation is under review. He declined to elaborate further.

TAKEOFFS

" BWIA moved to electronic ticketing Sept. 15, as the first step towards the carriers meeting IATAs mandate for the industry standard of a paperless ticket environment by 2007. E-ticketing is now available throughout the BWIA network except in Manchester, England, and in Suriname, both of which will follow shortly.

" Continental Airlines will launch two weekly flights from Houston to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, Dec. 16. The new route will complement Continentals existing nonstop flights to Punta Cana from Newark. The flights will depart Houston (Bush) on Fridays and Saturdays at 1:30 p.m., arriving in Punta Cana at 7:35 p.m. The return flights will leave Punta Cana on Saturdays and Sundays at 9:10 a.m., arriving in Houston at noon.

THE REGIONAL GEORGE F. L. CHARLES AIRPORT in the northern part of St. Lucia will be closed from Sept. 27 through Oct. 4 while repair and rehab improvements take place. The closure is the second phase of a 72-day project of improvements that began Aug. 22. During the closure, all aircraft will be diverted to the island's main Hewanorra International Airport, an hour and 20 minutes south of Castries. Charles Airport is primarily served by inter-island flights, including American Eagle aircraft from San Juan. For information, call George F. L. Charles Airport at (758) 452-1156 or Hewanorra International Airport at (758) 454-6355.

LE MERIDIEN HOTELS & RESORTS will manage a 200-room hotel in Barbados as part of a new luxury waterfront development at the Pierhead in Bridgetown. Expected to open in 2010, the five-star hotel will be part of a mixed development project, which also will include 200 apartments, a 150-berth marina, shopping outlets and a maritime museum. Le Meridien Barbados will offer banquet facilities; a marina restaurant; a pool with a beachside terrace and bar; a health and fitness club; and a rooftop bar. For more information, visit www.lemeridien.com.

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