Saturday 4 July, 2020

Up to five flights per day for returning Jamaicans

File photo of an American Airlines aircraft.

File photo of an American Airlines aircraft.

Five flights per day.

That is the number being targeted by the Government as it moves to bring home some 3,000 Jamaicans by June 14.

They are among the 7,000 Jamaicans, many in the United States, who have registered on the JamCovid App to return home. They have been stranded overseas because of the COVID-19 pandemic which forced many countries to close their borders.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness made the announcement as he addressed the House of Representatives on Tuesday night. He had indicated during a Jamaica House press conference on Sunday that attention would now turn to bringing home Jamaicans by air, after repatriating some 2,300 nationals, the majority via cruise ships, over the past several weeks.

“Complex logistical arrangements will of course also have to be made as we had to do with the cruise ships but the air travel arrangements are a little bit more complex because you’re dealing with more airlines and you’re dealing with shorter schedules so it’s a little bit more complicated,” said Holness.

“We have closely examined the carrying capacity of our airports and the resources available, given the more intense screening process that will be in place,” he added.

The prime minister said talks are now underway with the airlines to establish schedules up to June 14 “with the view to have four flights per day for North America, two at each airport (Norman Manley and Sangster International) one in the morning and one in the evening”.

He said the administration was also eyeing an additional midday flight that would repatriate some 900 Jamaican nationals from various Caribbean islands.  While that would amount to five flights per day, Holness conceded that it may not always materialise because of the logistics involved. Many of the major airlines have up to 90 per cent of their aircraft grounded as international travel was brought to a halt because of the coronavirus.

“So we’re hoping to have on average, that’s our target, three scheduled flights per day from now until the 14th,” Holness stated. He said the government will also be looking to accommodate, as best as possible, aircraft schedule.  

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