NEW YORK -- Air Jamaica is facing many of the same challenges as
its competitors, but it is taking a "different path," according to
Allen Chastanet, the carrier's vice president of marketing and
By that, Chastanet meant that Air Jamaica has opted to be a
full-service airline -- boosting and upgrading services to
passengers rather than undertaking the type of cost-cutting
measures seen among the U.S. carriers, particularly in food
Chastanet said Air Jamaica's "two core markets" make it
impossible to drop or charge for meals.
He said the West Indian Caribbean market "needs certain levels
As for the other core group -- leisure travelers -- Chastanet
said that in-flight service, including meals, is part of the
"The vacation begins when you get on Air Jamaica," he said,
adding that the airline last year upgraded its first class and
added a superior class, called Premium, with sleeper seats.
Air Jamaica chairman Gordon "Butch" Stewart -- who also is
chairman of Sandals & Beaches Resorts -- expanded on that
"We want people to have something to look forward to" as they
prepare to fly away on vacation.
Air Jamaica lost money in 2002, but not at the rate of many U.S.
carriers, Chastanet noted, which enabled the carrier to steer clear
of staff cuts and office closures.
However, although the airline "did not lose as much as
expected," Stewart said, "we can't keep doing that."
Stewart said he was optimistic that this year the carrier will
make "a lot of money."
Air Jamaica has no plans to add U.S. gateways this year because
it is maxed out at 12 under the current bilateral agreement.
Although the picture will change for Air Jamaica after the
Jamaican government signs a promised open-skies agreement with the
U.S., the airline said it is not targeting new destinations in the
U.S. at the moment.
Chastanet said the economy still is unpredictable and there are
"so many elements outside our control."
Rather, he said, the airline is looking at gateway expansion in
Canada and possibly in Europe.
In the U.S., expansion will take the form of added flights on
Air Jamaica has announced plans for a second daily Chicago
flight beginning Feb. 12 and a second daily service from Los
Angeles beginning April 10.
From Baltimore, the carrier will offer two flights per day four
days a week, beginning in June.
Stewart said Los Angeles has been "one of our best-performing
routes, so we decided to throw the dice for twice-daily service,"
operating the only nonstop flights from Los Angeles to the
With the extra service, he continued, "we can market more
aggressively," and with the nonstops, Air Jamaica is offering what
the customer wants.
"People want to get on a flight and go to the destination,"
Chastanet also noted that Jamaica is the same distance from Los
Angeles as Hawaii, and "we need to do a better job of publicizing
The underlying plan for Air Jamaica, Stewart concluded, is to
keep growing the business to benefit the carrier and the entire
Caribbean region, where the biggest need continues to be additional