Air Jamaica’s Death Spiral Completes on April 12

It seems like just yesterday that I named Air Jamaica the saddest airline ever. It looks like that title will be short-lived. April 12 is the day that the government is expected to hand the reins over to Caribbean Airlines, an airline with its Air Jamaica, Saddest Airline Everown checkered past. Will 1+1 = 3? Probably not, but what the heck. It’s worth a shot.

Though I haven’t seen a copy, it’s being reported that Air Jamaica circulated the news in a memo to employees last week. Apparently the memo wasn’t meant to tell employees not that they had a new boss but rather that they were all fired. All employees will have to reapply for work under the new company. For the first year, Air Jamaica will operate its fleet under contract with Caribbean. Then it’ll be Caribbeans’ problem.

Never heard of Caribbean? You might know them under their previous name, BWIA. “B-wee” as it was known, was shut down in 2006 after more than 60 years of flying in a similar fashion to this deal. Everyone was fired and they had to reapply to work at Caribbean when it launched at the dawn of 2007. Caribbean is based in Trinidad and Tobago.

In the process, Caribbean shrank dramatically. It only has a few 737-800s and Dash 8s these days. Its long haul operation is gone, but it may eventually come back. This is probably going to be the blueprint for Air Jamaica’s future. I would expect big cuts in service in order to get the house in order. Then maybe we’ll see additional growth down the line, but it won’t be the same.

Will this actually make the airline viable? It’s possible. I imagine that they’ll be able to flow some traffic between Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. They could turn Trinidad into the hub for South American flying and Jamaica into the hub for North American flying and then flow traffic between the two. It might help, but it’s long road ahead.

So, if you have tickets on Air Jamaica’s champagne flights (are they still doing that?), you might want to be a little nervous. We don’t know exactly what’s going to happen yet, but you’ll definitely want to stay on top of things.

Bye, bye Air Jamaica. Don’t cry, even if you are the saddest airline ever for just a little bit longer.


11 Responses to Air Jamaica’s Death Spiral Completes on April 12

  1. Thanks for the update Brett-Good info. I flew Air Jamaica once from MIA-two things I remember, you mentioned one: the champagne! The other…I looked out the window and we were almost on the ground, no announcement or anything… and I was awake & sober.
    -PR

  2. SEAN says:

    Nervous? Yes. First time? No I’ve been nervous lots of times. And boy that does apply here.

  3. David SFeastbay says:

    I just read about this yesterday and the CEO said they would operate their existing fleet for 6 months and during the transition all existing reservations would be honored and the JM code will remain in use.

    Caribbean Airlines will become the designated flag carrier of Jamica. Seems odd to have a ‘flag carrier’ when that airline is based in another country.

    One minute wasn’t it Spirit wanting to take them over and the next Caribbean Airlines is in. Did I blink and miss something?

  4. Davester says:

    Aaah…the glory days of the old BWIA and Air Jamaica. These guys suffered in part because of competition from US based carriers offering cheaper and somewhat more reliable service to the islands. As an islander, I can tell you that we all liked that fares went down (generally speaking) after more carriers began service to the islands in the mid 90’s. Air Jamaica particularly suffered when Spirit started cheap service from Florida to Jamaica.

    BWIA (partially reincarnated as Caribbean) had a flight back in the 80’s that left Jamaica and hopped on Puerto Rico, possibly Dominican Republic, Barbados, Antigua, and then eventually to Trinidad. We then had a 5 hour layover (between 1 am and 6 am) before we could fly on to Guyana in South America. My first transatlantic flight was from Trinidad to London on BWIA in the middle row of a twin aisle jet.

    Maybe all of this means that Caribbean will absorb Air Jamaica and return to the glory days of BWIA. I doubt that though. Maybe Branson should snap them up and call them Virgin Caribbean. That would be something.

  5. Bryan B says:

    I always thought that JM had the most colorful livery. I regret that I never was able to fly them. I considered using them for a trip to Montego Bay in May 2009. I was debating between a flight from DTW-MBJ via FLL on Northwest and Air Jamaica; and between a DTW-MBJ flight via ATL on Delta.

    The NW/JM flight via FLL was actually less expensive; however the interline connection in FLL would have involved connecting from Terminal 2 to Terminal 4 at FLL. I wasn’t too fond of having to catch the shuttle bus to switch terminals at FLL, so we decided to fly DL instead. I’m sure that many others felt the same way as well. I wonder how much interline traffic JM got at their U.S gateways at BWI, FLL, ORD, JFK and PHL?

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  7. miniliq says:

    Much as I like the idea of using POS as a hub for South America I believe it’s unlikely to happen. I flew POS to GIG many times and always had to go via MIA on AA (now there’s an option of IAH on CO), which makes it a very long trip, but I doubt there is enough demand for direct flights. POS is very close to CCS, but that was a miserable interline connection. Caribbean is going to have to rebuild its longhaul traffic to JFK, YYZ and LGW, but I don’t see how Jamaica is going to help.

  8. David SFeastbay says:

    I wonder since Caribbean Airlines will be the ‘flag carrier’ of Jamaica if they will have to keep a certain level of service to certain cities or if they will be free to service which ever cities they decide may be best.

    With BW based in Trinidad which is the bottom of the caribbean and Jamaica at the top, it gives BW a good chance to use MBJ and/or KIN as a hub between the USA and all of the caribbean. They could then compete better with what AA does with it’s hub in SJU.

  9. CF says:

    David SFeastbay wrote:

    One minute wasn’t it Spirit wanting to take them over and the next Caribbean Airlines is in. Did I blink and miss something?

    Yep, Spirit, or at least Spirit’s parent, was said to be interested but my guess is they walked away when they saw what a mess it was there.

  10. PHLLAX says:

    Good riddance! It’s about time the GOJ forefitted their national pride and gave up the pipe dream of having the JM name survive with the hub at MBJ and do the right thing! CAL has been profitable almost since the beginning, and their service is consistent.

    The only thing left to do to really create a regional Caribbean carrier is to incorporate LIAT into the fold.

    As far as the dual hub structure, it should work. Most people in the US don’t know where T&T are, let alone that CAL exists. Jamaicq and JM are well known. It should help to get people to some of the Southern Islands that aren’t as easily accessible these days.

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