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The sale of Air Jamaica and the Jamaican traveler

 

posted by Focused on July 23, 2010 @ 2:41 pm in TRAVEL EXPERIENCE

 

Should the Jamaican government have sold Air Jamaica to Caribbean Airlines? Were there better options? While the opinions on the issue vary, there is no disputing the fact that the sale of the national carrier has left no Jamaican indifferent. What are the implications of the sale for the Jamaican traveler?

 

Having been around for over four decades, Air Jamaica was considered part of our national heritage. For many Jamaicans abroad, boarding the Air Jamaica aircraft on their way to Jamaica represented the beginning of the countdown to reaching home soil. It was like ‘reaching Jamaica’ before reaching Jamaica. While the Air Jamaica experience also had its unpleasant side (missing luggage, frequently delayed flights etc), having a national airline was a source of immense pride.

 

Pride is one thing but a traveler’s budget is another. Will the disappearance of Air Jamaica make Jamaican travelers more vulnerable to ticket price increases? Think about it. Jamaicans at home and abroad will always be traveling to and from Jamaica. With Air Jamaica out of their way, foreign carriers won’t necessarily have to be as competitive with their ticket prices in the long run. They will be guaranteed a large and steady amount of customers (Jamaicans) with bonuses in the form of the fluctuating amounts of tourists visiting Jamaica. One can look at the Air Afrique case to further understand these dynamics.

 

Air Afrique (1961-2002) was the official transnational air carrier for francophone West Africa. The governments of 11 countries within that region owned two-thirds of the company’s capital. To cut a long story short, Air Afrique was a successful airline for many years. It served destinations across Africa, Europe, Asia and North America. When things went bad the shareholding governments sold their shares in the company to Air France in 2001. Air Afrique folded in 2002. How did that affect the fortunes of Air Afrique’s customers?

 

Air France inherited all of Air Afrique’s profitable routes and did not have any real competition when it came to the ones leaving from Europe. As a result, Air France’s ticket prices for its West African destinations became criminally high (laws of business right?). As a result, members of the Europe-based West African Diaspora wishing to travel home had to deal with a blatant form of highway robbery.

 

Business is business and the laws of supply and demand speak for themselves. Air Jamaica was not immune to that fact. I am convinced that today’s situation could have been avoided. Better management and service would definitely have kept the airline profitable today.

 

Jamaica still needs its own airline. The new Jamaican airline will have to be privately owned with a substantial amount of shares made available to the Jamaican public.

 

To be continued…

 

 

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