AFTER a nine-month hiatus from the Panama/Jamaica airspace due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Panamanian-owned Copa Airlines soared to the skies on Monday (December 7), at almost full capacity, to regain its slot at Sangster International Airport (SIA) in Montego Bay.
The re-entry of Copa Airlines into Montego Bay is a realisation of a combined effort between the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) and MBJ Airports Limited – the lessee of Sangster International Airport.
The synergy between Copa Airlines and the Jamaican Government will result in an increase in the collection of taxes and fees for the Government, which is well needed at this time.
Ninety-eight passengers and a seven-member crew were greeted by a local welcoming party headed by the JTB’s regional director of tourism, Odette Dyer. She was accompanied by chairman of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (Montego Bay Chapter) Nadine Spence, as well as representatives from the airline and the SIA.
“We are very pleased to welcome the re-entry of Copa Airlines, one of the JTB’s very valuable partners in the tourism industry. This gives us more hope that our tourism sector will rebound. It inspires us to continue being relentless in marketing Jamaica as the premier destination in the Caribbean,” said Dyer. “I am elated. The return of any flight into the destination is very significant, especially during this pandemic.”
Explaining that Copa Airlines services more than 80 gateways in Latin America she said it aligns well with the strategic objectives of the JTB, adding that it is the JTB’s pathway into that particular market.
“The more people visiting Jamaica increases our chances of employing and re-employing Jamaicans into the tourism sector,” Dyer added.
Dyer said more recently that Jamaica has been seeing more persons from Latin America visiting for vacation purposes, which has encouraged the JTB to explore that market in a more holistic manner.
Statistics and air service development analyst at the SIA, Nadia Anglin-Nolan said Copa Airlines will operate a once-weekly flight (Mondays only) between Tocumen International Airport out of Panama City and Sangster International Airport during the month of December, and would likely increase their service according to demands.
Anglin-Nolan reminded Jamaicans and Panamanians that there are no visa requirements to travel to either countries so they should consider visiting for holidays and shopping, particularly during Panama’s summer months of January onwards.
JHTA’s area chairman, Nadine Spence said the resumption of Copa Airlines and others into Montego Bay has brought excitement and hope to the hospitality sector.
“Today Copa has shown that they believe in Jamaica, the brand, the climate, the culture and its people.
“We have it all. While some other airlines are in a wait and see mode, Copa has stayed true to their word by returning to our airspace. It alleviates some of the anxiety we have been experiencing in the sector. We are grateful to Copa,” Spence affirmed.