Upstart carrier ready for skies

When U.S. mega carrier Delta pulled out of the Georgetown – New York route in early May, many in the air traveling public threw up their hands in despair knowing full well that its departure meant that Trinidad-based Caribbean Airlines (CAL) would have almost totally monopoly of the skies between the U.S. and Guyana.

Initially, Delta did not specify clear reasons for abandoning a route despite the fact that its planes were more than 80 percent filled most of the time. In the ensuing months, however, Delta, American and other U.S. carriers filed complaints with the US DOT railing about millions in fuel subsidies Trinidad was giving to CAL and objecting to CAL’s application for additional non-stop flights to Guyana citing unfair trading practices.

But to the relief of those who must travel between Georgetown and New York, an upstart carrier owned by Guyanese and Jamaican investors is about to take to the skies, offering direct competition to CAL.

Fly Jamaica, owned by veteran Guyanese aviator Ronald Reece and Jamaican Captain Lloyd Tai, is scheduled to begin operating the route from Thursday of this week but its northbound flights will have to transit Jamaica for now until all permits from the DOT are obtained by Fly Jamaica.

Director Roxanne Reece, wife of Ronald, an active flight captain, said that while officials are elated that a Caribbean-owned airline will be operating between Guyana and the U.S. with little or no government assistance, the start up of the service is a definitely a dream come through for the Reece family.

“You have to know that 30 years ago we had applied to do this very same thing but the government in power back then gave our business plan to another operator and he started a service that later failed. We applied again in the 90s. Cabinet said then they had approved it but all the documents got misplaced and we simply gave up the idea. What is about to happen is a dream come through,” she told Caribbean Life at the weekend.

Since those two experiences, she said, “we keep all our business plans in our heads. We don’t write down anything to give to anybody else to steal,” she said.

Fly Jamaica already owns the Beoing-757 that it has been using on the Kingston, Jamaica-New York route in the past three months and is about to buy a 767 to fly between Georgetown and New York and Georgetown and Toronto. The Toronto service is scheduled for inauguration in early October.

Aware that it will have to market its service creatively to compete with CAL and U.S. carriers operating in the region, Fly Jamaica says it is planning charters to Brazil for the FIFA Soccer World Cup next year and has an eye for a Fort Lauderdale, Florida service also next year.

For the Reece family and Fly Jamaica who were creditworthy enough to access loans on the international market for about US$50M for the airline, Fly Jamaica is an extension of its Wings Aviation domestic operations in Guyana. Wings does charters for the mining and other industries using a six-seater Cessna 206 and a Cessna 208, 13-seater Caravan, both single engine propeller aircraft.

With the impending appearance of Fly Jamaica on the New York route, passengers are anxious to see whether fares will come down as some offered by CAL during the summer had reached as high as $1,200 or nearly double normal fares when there is route competition.

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