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Air Jamaica and Caribbean Airlines to implement transition plan today, May 1 and Emotions run high as Air J workers tell colleagues goodbye.

KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) -- As of May 1, Air Jamaica and Caribbean Airlines will implement a transition plan, which will see the lovebird continuing its operations under agreements with the Trinidadian carrier.

Negotiations now complete, the airlines will formally sign a number of agreements to cement the deal, on Friday, Chairman of Air Jamaica, Dennis Lalor told journalists at a press conference at the airline's downtown Kingston head offices on Wednesday.

Chairman of Air Jamaica, Dennis Lalor (second right), updates journalists about Air Jamaica's negotiations with Caribbean Airlines, April 28. Also participating in the press conference (from left) are: Project Manager, Air Jamaica Divestment, Dennis Chung; President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Air Jamaica, Bruce Nobles; and Director of Caribbean Airlines, Shafeek Sultan-Kahn. (JIS photo)

This transition period is expected to last from six to 12 months, after which Caribbean Airlines will "fully enforce its plan to provide a sustainable airlift from Jamaica," he said.

The Jamaican Government will transfer to Caribbean Airlines, Air Jamaica's routes, for a 16 per cent ownership in Caribbean Airlines. However, Mr. Lalor pointed out that, "the Government of Jamaica remains the owner of all of Air Jamaica's other assets, including its real estate assets and industrial assets." He added that this deal is "superior" to what was contemplated with the other bidder in the divestment process, Indigo Partners.

Initial operations will see Caribbean Airlines continue serving routes from: JFK to Montego Bay, JFK to Kingston, Baltimore to Montego Bay, Philadelphia to Montego Bay, Toronto to Kingston, Fort Lauderdale to Montego Bay, and Fort Lauderdale to Kingston. Plans for other routes are to be announced by Caribbean Airlines.

All of Air Jamaica's financial responsibilities will be turned over to Caribbean Airlines, which the Chairman said, "has the adequate financial strength to sustain their commitment to Jamaica."

In this regard, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago has agreed to increase Caribbean Airlines capital by US$50 million. This move, Lalor said, provides adequate assurance to the Divestment Committee that enough funding will be available for the project.

Lalor stressed that there will be no disruption of service, as all tickets issued will be honoured. Some US$9 million has been set aside to deal with refunds for advance ticket sales.

Also on Friday (April 30), all redundancy and other payments due to workers will be made, amounting to US$24 million. Some 1,000 employees are to be rehired by Caribbean Airlines during the transition period. "These employees have already been identified and have been given the opportunity to work with Caribbean Airlines," Lalor informed.

He noted that staff should face no economic disruptions, as the government has assured that arrangements have been made to take care of statutory payments.

The categories of workers who will be rehired by Caribbean Airlines include 200 flight crew, with the remainder being ground and maintenance crews.

Meanwhile, Director of Caribbean Airlines, Shafeek Sultan-Kahn said certain criteria had been used to select staff who are to be rehired.

In relation to the trade unions, Sultan-Khan said: "We have been criticized for not meeting with unions (but).it would be presumptuous of us to make any representation with the unions, for one simple reason - we have no workers as yet. Air Jamaica is still the employer until the 30th of April. We are in the process of making employment offers, and that process is going to go on today and tomorrow."


SOMBRE expressions hung on the faces of Air Jamaica staff at the Norman Manley International Airport (NMIA) in Kingston, yesterday, as they carried out their duties on final day of operations under Jamaican ownership.

Charmaine Franklin, regional manager at the airport who was responsible for handing out redundancy cheques to some staff members, said the day was packed with emotion.

"Friends are parting, co-workers who have been here for years are going. It is a total change on the whole company so you know it would be emotional today," Franklin told the Observer.

"Turnout is in the high 90s [per cent]. Most of the people are here but I think some people really can't manage the emotion," she said, adding that those at work were trying to remain "strong and resilient".

Franklin said she had not started handing out any cheques when the Observer visited.

For the most part, dejected employees of the airline declined to speak to the Observer. Those who did, however, offered brief direct statements, and asked that they not be identified.

"What's there to do? We know that this was coming so really, there is nothing we can do," said a female employee. "After this? I just have to find something else to do, somewhere else to go," she said, acknowledging the reality with a mirthless chuckle.

Another female employee questioned the airline's ability to grow under its new owners.

"Me? Work for Caribbean Airlines? Not an option," said the woman outside the terminal building. "I mean, that just feels stagnant. I would like to move on to another company, another environment. And I think, here, there is just no growth."

One male employee, who was seen darting from one end of the terminal building to the other, offered: "I don't pick up my cheque yet. I know it is there but I am too busy with work to think about that right now."

When this reporter approached a female employee smoking a cigarette in the airport's food court, the woman lifted her head slowly, and without a response, continued puffing on the stick.

Mark Williams, public relations officer at NMIA, said that only one early flight to Fort Lauderdale in Florida, United States, was delayed, yesterday.

"But I don't think that had anything to do with the Air Jamaica situation, though," he noted hastily.

Williams said he was saddened by the departure of some employees, whom he described as "very loyal" to the airline.

His sentiments were echoed by passengers waiting in line to be checked in to flights destined for Fort Lauderdale, and Toronto.

"I think it is a big sell-out, trust me," said one female passenger. "I have been flying for years and is only Air Jamaica I travel on. I am really going to miss the Lovebird, and I think many Jamaicans are not going to support it now," she said.

"I don't agree with that," interjected another female passenger, who said it was her first time travelling on the airline. "I think people will continue [to] travel with Air Jamaica. It's just life; people have to move on and other people have to come in; we just have to work with the changes.

As of today, Trinidad-owned Caribbean Airlines will take over the operations of Air Jamaica.

The airline was scheduled to make its last departure under Jamaican ownership at 8:50 pm to New York, while its final arrival was slated for 9:55 pm from Fort Lauderdale.

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Comment by shelly26 on May 3, 2010 at 12:45am
Its really sad peace air j,u carry me a foreign and first plane ride. U will b missed lol!!!!!!!!
Comment by Rebbel Uneek on May 2, 2010 at 4:04am
Damn... Jamaica mi feel for you, same s*** happened to Guyana Airways--Carib Air...SUCKS! It's like OMNI and TOWER Air..
Comment by Suga on May 2, 2010 at 3:43am
Its a sad situation really..Im at lost for words.
Comment by True Blu on May 2, 2010 at 1:25am
Just Like How They Sell out Marcus Garvey Fi Rice An Peas ,Thats How They Sell Out The National Carrier ,But Dont Worry In a Few Years The PNP Will Aquire it Back

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