Virgin buys Air Jamaica’s cash-strapped London route

KINGSTON, Jamaica, May 28, 2007 – Under the weight of 20 million US dollars in losses per year, the flag carrier of Jamaica has sold its route rights to Virgin Atlantic in a deal that has not sat well with some sections of the Jamaican society.

“It is not right that the Jamaican taxpayer should continue to fund such losses when there may be more pressing demands for precious funds,” Virgin Atlantic Chairman Sir Richard Branson said yesterday.

He said that Virgin would take over the route in October and cutback weekly flights from seven to two between the capital Kingston and London Gatwick. Virgin already operates two weekly flights from Montego Bay to London Gatwick.

“In today’s aviation world, Air Jamaica cannot continue to swallow the losses mounting from a single daily service where the economics are not viable. It is expensive operating a wide-bodied aircraft each day, and one that is very different from the rest of its fleet,” he said.

Opposition spokesman on tourism, Edmund Bartlett, has charged that government has sold out the Jamaica-London Heathrow route to Virgin Atlantic because it will result in less flights per week, less seats available, and travel to a “far less popular departure point” of London Gatwick.

He saw the decision as belittling of Jamaica when one considers that smaller and further countries such as Barbados enjoy a near daily service to Britain by both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.