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.

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