Air Jamaica, LIAT cut routes

KINGSTON, Jamaica, January 28, 2009 – Jamaica’s cash-strapped national carrier and regional airline LIAT are both cutting routes as the world economic turbulence takes a toll on their operations.

Air Jamaica revealed to employees yesterday that it addition to getting rid of under-performing routes and reducing its plane fleet, it will have to trim its workforce.

“We are following a schedule that reduces our flying to try to match our capacity with demand and we are reducing and at least eliminating for the time being flights between Jamaica and Miami, also to Grand Cayman, Los Angeles and Atlanta and the Eastern Caribbean,” Chief Executive Officer Bruce Nobles said, adding that the service between Jamaica and Barbados and Jamaica and Grenada will also cease from February 26.
The number of persons who will be sent on the breadline has not yet been decided, Mr Nobles said, but he made it clear that the cuts will “affect all levels in the company because we are going to try and get the company’s cost down to try and match the revenue coming in the door”.
He said that efforts will be made to minimise the impact on staff, with consideration being given to options such as voluntary redundancies and leaves of absence.

The airline’s fleet will also be reduced from 15 to nine aircraft and existing leases will be restructured and aircraft returns negotiated.

All the cuts are part of a business plan for the carrier which is moving to be privatized by March.

Meantime, the Antigua-based LIAT announced on Monday that it would have to cut back on some routes because of a decrease in demand. It said the current world economic crisis was impacting on travel patterns in the Caribbean and the carrier would have to reduce the number of daily flights in and out of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Guyana, and St Kitts and Nevis.

“At present there are some flights that are doing fairly well and there are some days with good loads; but unfortunately our forecast overall load factor for the month of January and the next few months is clearly showing a softening in the markets,” explained Director of Schedules and Special Projects Lesroy Browne.

“We will be continuing the process of adjustments throughout this trying time of world economic downturn to ensure that we add capacity where there is a demand and reduce capacity where we see the loads are not holding up.”

LIAT said that from February 15 to 25 and April 9 to 14, it would reinstate at least two flights in an effort to help satisfy demand around the time of the Trinidad Carnival as well as the Easter Weekend.