There could be a spike in the number of visitors from Curacao to Jamaica as the country yesterday welcomed the inaugural weekly air service from JetAir Caribbean Airlines.
JetAir will fly every Thursday into Kingston, departing on the same day.
Director of Tourism Donovan White was among dignitaries on hand yesterday when the aircraft arrived at the Norman Manley International Airport (NMIA) at 2:40 pm to welcome 28 passengers.
White said the new air service is a good signal as it will help to rebuild the local tourism industry, which has suffered from the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“It is great for tourism for the region that some of our more native air transportation partners are flying again between islands and we welcome that. We are encouraged and we are going to continue to do our part to build this service with our partners in Curacao,” White told the Jamaica Observer.
“We’ve always had good relations with our partner and I think this will allow for the restart of some of those relationships with Jamaicans who live in Curacao and those from Curacao travelling to this side of the Caribbean,” White added.
Fernando Vistrain Lorence, CEO of PAC Kingston Airport Limited (PACKAL) which operates NMIA, also expressed optimism about the increase in flights, especially with the relaxation of COVID-19 measures.
“We are having a very slow recovery but we are sure that in the next month things will improve. With the new measures I am sure that more Jamaicans are going to travel,” the PACKAL CEO declared.
As of yesterday the curfew begins at 11:00 pm until 5:00 am from Mondays to Saturdays and 6:00 pm until 5:00 am on Sundays. These measures will last until August 11, according to Prime Minister Andrew Holness.
Meanwhile, JetAir pilot Jeroen Schuppen explained that the service should have started last year but faced challenges posed by the novel coronavirus pandemic. “We are very happy to be able to be here now. We are trying to connect the whole Caribbean together again as there has been a big gap in the aviation from Curacao,” he said.
The Observer also spoke with a few passengers who seemed overjoyed upon their arrival in Kingston.
“I feel great to be in my country, so glad to be back after seven years!” said a delighted passenger who gave her name as Shelly-Ann said, and who was being transported in a wheelchair by a worker at NMIA.
Another who was seen dancing to music being played by the mento band as he walked into the airport said, “I have been gone for six years. I am happy to be here. The flight was so good.”
Those who were among 24 passengers set for departure to Curacao at 3:55 pm also shared their views.
For Jermaine Dillon, having the direct flight is a relief as he would normally travel to Panama City before connecting to a flight to Curacao.
“It feels so good. It used to be a connected flight and you’d have to spend a night or two there [Panama], where you didn’t prepare to stay,” he explained.
Patrice McKenzie, who was also departing, added, “It feels like doing a COVID-19 test. It is scary because it’s a new flight but we are just hoping for the best.”