Shifting control of its operations to Caribbean Airlines three years ago because of severe economic challenges was the beginning of the end of the Air Jamaica brand which was recognized globally for high quality service for several decades.
When Fly Jamaica landed at Pearson International Airport last Tuesday for its inaugural non-stop flight to Georgetown, Guyana, a proud airport ground staff employee — with Canadian and Jamaican mini-flags in his hands – approached the new carrier and planted a kiss on the right side of the aircraft.
It didn’t matter that Guyana, and not Jamaica, was this particular flight destination. The word “Jamaica” stood out for him.
Already offering full service to Guyana, Jamaica and New York, the airline received landing rights for Canada recently. With many Guyanese-Canadians returning home to the land of their birth for the Christmas holidays, the six-hour flight touched down at Cheddi Jagan International Airport just after 10 p.m. (9 p.m. Eastern Time) last Tuesday night.
Beginning January 14, the airline will fly once weekly between Toronto and Georgetown on Tuesdays.
“Over the years, Guyanese-Canadians and other travellers have been clamouring for a direct service between Toronto and Georgetown,” said the airline’s chief sales and marketing representative, Edward Van Luien. “They have that now along with affordable rates that we offer to fly in comfort.”
This inaugural flight marked the final stage of a dream come true for Guyanese Ronald Reece who has always had a passion for aircrafts. The certified pilot bought his first plane – a Cessna 185 single-engine skywagon – at age 29 and later augmented his Cessna fleet with the 205 super skywagon and the turboprop engine Caravan.
He and his wife Roxanne Reece – one of the airline’s two directors – were on hand at Lester Pearson International Airport – to celebrate the inaugural flight.
With financial support from his wife and young daughter Kayla, Reece purchased a Boeing 757 aircraft that’s leased to Fly Jamaica Airways in which he has a stake as chief executive officer. Chief Operating Officer Lloyd Tai and in-flight services manager Christine Steele are among the Jamaican shareholders.
The aircraft has 12 first-class and 186 economy class seats and its flight attendants are primarily ex-Air Jamaica staff. Several Guyanese were recently trained to become flight attendants.
Chief pilot Neil “Butch” Savory was at the control of the inaugural flight. The former air traffic controller was a First Officer with the defunct Guyana Airways before migrating to Canada 14 years ago. He was also a captain with the defunct Skyservice and Ethiopian Airlines.
The airline’s Toronto office is located at Terminal Three and Van Luien can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (905) 676-1991.