Air Ja drops St. Lucia

The eastern Caribbean island of St Lucia is the latest route to be placed on suspension by the country’s national carrier, Air Jamaica.

Air Jamaica

Effective April 1, the airline will suspend its thrice-weekly service to that country.

According to highly placed sources at the airline, the cost of operating St Lucia could not have been sustained without massive subsidy. In the past, promises of subsidising the route have been made to the airline by the St Lucian Government.

The airline’s departure from St Lucia comes at a time when its US gateway, Newark, New Jersey, has been cut, effective March 9, and while several other routes, including Chicago, are to be reduced, The Gleaner has learnt.

As it carries out cost cutting on its routes, the airline has been slashing the wages of its overseas staff, particularly in Miami, sent home sales staff in New York and Chicago and members of its marketing team in Florida.

In a release to the media yesterday, the airline’s senior vice-president of marketing and sales, Paul Pennicook, said the carrier was forced to make the difficult decision on St Lucia because of its corporate restructuring, which entails streamlining and route rationalisation.

“It is with a heavy heart that we have to suspend the St Lucia service from both New York and Jamaica,” said Pennicook, explaining that the decision was part of a new mandate for Air Jamaica to become a leaner, more viable national carrier.

Last year the airline was forced to sell its Heathrow slots to Virgin Atlantic, after losing over US$27 million annually on that route. The airline has since signed off on a code-share agreement with Virgin, which allows it the opportunity of earning approximately US$2 million annually.