[Flashback] Air Jamaica sold

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bimjim
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[Flashback] Air Jamaica sold

Unread post by bimjim » Sun Apr 01, 2018

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/special- ... old_127153

[Flashback] Air Jamaica sold
Sunday, April 01, 2018

The privatisation of the Lovebird led to a revitalisation programme which involved fleet renewal, the introduction of service to new destinations, and the expansion of on-board amenities.

In 1994 the Gordon “Butch” Stewart-led Air Jamaica Acquisition Group took a majority stake in the operation of Air Jamaica, in the wake of continued financial losses the ailing Government carrier had been racking up. The privatisation of the Lovebird led to a revitalisation programme which involved fleet renewal, the introduction of service to new destinations, and the expansion of on-board amenities.

However in 2004 severe financial losses saw Stewart, who is also chairman of the Jamaica Observer, and his team of investors signing over their 75 per cent ownership share back to the Government, bringing the carrier back under full State ownership after 10 years.

But three years after the Government reacquired the airline, the carrier had racked up some $12.9 billion in debt and continued on a downward slide until it was divested to the Trinidad-owned Caribbean Airlines Limited (CAL) in 2011.

Four years before that, the People's National Party Government had discontinued Air Jamaica's service to London and sold the London Heathrow Airport slots to Virgin Atlantic Airways, under a code share agreement with the UK-based airline.

This fuelled public outcry and debates for months. When the Government changed after the September 2007 General Election, the newly elected Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Administration asked the Office of the Contractor General to open a probe into the sale of the slots.

But by March 2009 it was clear that the JLP Government was prepared to part ways with the national carrier, after announcing that it was in talks with three investors to offload the airline by March 31, 2009.

A new five-member board headed by Dennis Lalor replaced the Shirley Williams-led board to oversee the transitional arrangements.

In January 2010 Air Jamaica employees petitioned then Prime Minister Bruce Golding to have pilots and other staff members take over operations of the Lovebird, and the Jamaica Airline Pilots Association put up a valiant fight to retain the carrier, without success.

Four months later, Finance Minister Audley Shaw announced that Cabinet had approved the terms of an agreement for the divestment of the airline's operations to CAL, effective April 30.

However, after several missed deadlines CAL officially acquired majority stake in Air Jamaica in May 2011.

Although the sale disappointed many Jamaicans, the decision by the Trinidadian and Jamaican governments to retain the Air Jamaica brand name resonated well with many at home and abroad.

Word came in January 2011 that the newly rebranded, Air Jamaica was set to resume flying to London's Heathrow Airport three days a week come July, but that failed to materialise.

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