Investing in corporate social responsibility and the customer experience is absolutely critical in a competitive business environment. It just makes good business sense, especially when you are competing for a share of the market.
Fly Jamaica owners, Ronald and Roxanne Reece, get it.
By offering complimentary snacks and meals in addition to sponsorships, which they consider crucial in their marketing strategy, the airline is earning high customer satisfaction marks.
They frequently sponsor sports teams, healthcare practitioners travelling to Guyana and Jamaica and events. Last January, the airline donated a return ticket for a Guyanese woman to reunite with her dying brother in the United States and eight months ago, they fulfilled centenarian Wilfred Sampson’s wish to return to Guyana.
In its third year, the Jamaica-registered airline is consolidating its position as a viable carrier for travellers in Canada, the United States, Jamaica and Guyana and considering expanding routes.
“We have had our challenges,” said Roxanne Reece, who was in Toronto with her husband last week to meet with travel agents. “While there were delays related to maintenance, we had other issues like bad weather and glitches with the reservation system which we rent that were out of our control. In those instances where we didn’t have a flight, we put passengers on other airlines. No traveller booked with us was ever stranded. We withstood the problems we faced and are now ready to grow the business.”
With one aircraft at its disposal, travellers were subjected to lengthy delays whenever there was a glitch with the Boeing 757 that is owned by the couple.
To alleviate the problem, they bought a second aircraft – a Boeing 767 – that became operational last summer. The wide-body twin jet has 12 first-class and 234 economy seats.
“Having that second plane has eased many of the difficulties we were having,” said Reece. “If one is grounded for any reason, we have a second plane to turn to and that means that our passengers will not be delayed for lengthy periods.”
An enhanced fleet means Fly Jamaica has options that can lead to growth.
“We are adding a second non-stop flight on the Toronto-Georgetown route for about two months beginning July and also offering cargo and charter services,” she said. “We will take you wherever you want to go.”
In December 2013, the airline launched a non-stop service between Toronto and Georgetown.
Reece promised that Fly Jamaica is in the market for the long run.
“We have invested a lot of time, effort and money into this and we are determined to make it work,” she said. “The other thing is that we have been associated with this industry for almost 40 years. This has very much consumed most of our life.”
A certified pilot and the airline’s chief executive officer, Ronald Reece has a passion for aviation. He bought his first aircraft – a Cessna 185 single-engine Skywagon – at age 29 and increased the fleet a few years later with the purchase of a 205 Skywagon and a turboprop engine Caravan.
The managing director of the family-owned Wings Aviation Limited that provides air transport in Guyana, Roxanne Reece is one of two directors – Canadian-educated Jamaican lawyer, Shaun Lawson-Laing, is the other – of Fly Jamaica, which has a staff of 260 with the majority in Jamaica.
“We have an experienced and dedicated group who are committed to enhancing the company,” she said.
The staff includes Greater Toronto Area resident, Neil “Butch” Savory, who is the chief pilot. The former air traffic controller was a first officer with the defunct Guyana Airways before migrating to Canada 16 years ago. He was also a captain with Skyservice, which ceased operations five years ago and Ethiopian Airlines prior to joining Fly Jamaica.
“Butch is a very important part of our company,” said Reece. “He and my husband worked together and we have known him for many years. Our relationship with him is very strong.”
Fly Jamaica arrives in Toronto at 7 a.m. on Fridays and leaves two hours later for the six-and-a-half hour flight to Georgetown.
Starting last Tuesday and ending on April 14, the airline is operating a special Easter one-way service on that day from Toronto to Georgetown with a 55-minute stopover in Kingston, Jamaica. That flight leaves Pearson International Airport at 10 a.m.