Jamaican airport traffic dominated by US routes; Air Jamaica still to confirm new owners

Image: 10 years of service celebrations
Air Jamaica celebrated 10 years of service to Grenada in May. Air Jamaica’s Manager, Community & Special Market Sales, N. E. Ann Marie Francis and Grenada’s Consul General Hon. Derrick James, marked the occasion with a ribbon cutting and celebratory cake.
Image: Route Map

As Jamaica’s athletes continue to provide the country with high profile exposure at the 12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics in Berlin this week, the country’s national airline Air Jamaica may be about to come under new ownership. Efforts to privatize the loss-making, government owned airline (which earlier this year celebrated its 40th anniversary) have been on-going for several years but according to local sources private US carrier Spirit Airlines may soon be the new owners.

Air Jamaica has seen its fleet downsized during the last year and now consists of just nine A320 series aircraft. From Kingston and Montego Bay the airline serves several destinations in North America and within the Caribbean. It also operates flights from New York to Barbados and Grenada. Due to the fleet reduction it has had to give up several routes from Kingston including Barbados, Grenada, Miami and Nassau. Routes from Montego Bay to Atlanta, Los Angeles and Miami have also had to be abandoned during the last 12 months.

Chart: Jamaican airport traffic 1992-2008
Source: ICAO, AAJ

Passenger traffic at the country’s two main airports (at Kingston and Montego Bay) has grown from a total of under three million in 1992 to over five million in 2006, since when traffic numbers have remained incredibly stable. Over three quarters of international scheduled capacity is on flights to and from the USA. Canada and the UK account for 6.4% and 5.1% of scheduled capacity and are the next two busiest country markets.

Image: Usain Bolt 200m World Record sprint
Jamaica currently leads the medal table at the IAAF World Athletics Championships taking place in Berlin. National hero Usain Bolt followed up his record-breaking run in the 100m on Sunday with another world record in the 200m last night.

16 US airports served non-stop from Jamaica

From Jamaica’s two airports a total of 16 US airports can be reached non-stop. Fort Lauderdale, Miami and New York JFK are the three leading destinations accounting for over half of all Jamaican – US capacity. Air Jamaica has around 32% of the seat capacity followed by American Airlines 26%, Delta/Northwest with 17.8% and US Airways with 11.2%. Non-legacy carriers JetBlue (from New York JFK to Montego Bay since May) and Spirit (to Fort Lauderdale) also operate in the market with capacity shares on 2.5% and 4.9% respectively. JetBlue will be adding a daily service from JFK to Kingston starting at the end of October.

Canadian services are operated by Air Canada, Air Jamaica and WestJet (to Montreal and Toronto). WestJet began operating from Toronto in December 2007. Scheduled UK services are provided by British Airways, Thomsonfly and Virgin Atlantic with BA adding a new London Gatwick to Montego Bay service in October. According to UK CAA statistics the UK to Jamaica market in 2008 was 441,048 passengers up 4.5% from 421,884 in 2007. Data from the US Bureau of Transportation Statistics indicated that the US to Jamaica market was virtually unchanged in 2008 at 2.9 million passengers.

Demand peaks at various times of the year

Monthly traffic data for the two airports for 2008 reveals that both airports have similar seasonality profiles with multiple peaks and troughs during the year. September and October are the lowest demand months, especially at Montego Bay. This tends to be when the Caribbean hurricane season can be at its most turbulent.

Chart:  Jamaican airport seasonality
Source: AAJ

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