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Fallout From Air Traffic Controllers Strike, Cancellations Hurt Tourism Industry

Clifton Reeder, President of the JHTA


May 19, 2022 | Hopeton O’Connor-Dennie |

Strikes, Strikes and Fear Of Strikes

The fallout from the industrial action taken by Air Traffic Controllers that effectively closed Jamaica’s airspace for an estimated four (4) hours has had a devastating impact on our economy and the cancellation of flights. Airlines cannot fly a plane into an airport which has no radar nor air traffic controllers to safely land the plane. Cancellations severely hurt the hotel industry.

Ten (10,000) thousand passengers were said to have been affected by the disruption due to lack of flights to leave and or to enter the Jamaican airspace.

The Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association (JHTA) president Clifton Reeder, appeared to have been livid. He said inter alia:

“The strikes which seem to be crawling peg affairs have crippled tourist arrivals.  For example a Wedding dress was being brought to Jamaica. The mother of the bride to be was stranded overseas.  Some 28 flights were all cancelled, average stay 70 percent were tourists.  Also people trapped in the walls of hotels. Discounts were offered and some tourists got complimentary stays as they just did not have the money to extend their stays. We made representations on behalf of some for further discounts.  Hotels lost new arrivals income.  Ground transportation got a hit also.”

The JHTA president did not stop there.

Wedding Season

“The “sitting in” of air traffic controllers effectively closed Jamaica’s airspace. We are currently enjoying a 85 percent occupancy in the hotel industry. 85 percent of people coming into Jamaica, were for weddings, some 150 weddings are booked, we lost an estimated 20 percent of booked weddings.  I  Spoke with Tourism Minister Bartlett, and he is seized with the position that the recovery of our economy is happening.  A lot of our tourists are returning Jamaicans. June, July, and August are the time period for weddings.  We have to convince the market we are strong.”

So concluded Clifton Reeder in a radio interview monitored by Vision’s Hopeton O’Connor-Dennie.

PM

PM Andrew Michael Holness breaks his silence on strikes. He said inter alia:

“The economy depends on income to see us through. The very workers will benefit from this income in salaries.  We cannot be shortsighted.  I urge all striking workers to return to their jobs.  We have always had ongoing dialogue and cannot allow 50 years of sound industrial relations harmony to be turned back.”

The PM did not single out any specific group and was rather conciliatory in his response.

Fall Out

A passenger named Niko was stranded in Florida, USA. On a late item of news we understand that Niko has gotten a flight and could catch the funeral he is coming for.

Niko, in a telephone interview on local radio from the airport in Florida, said inter alia:

“I was on the road from Maryland, USA from 2: 30 AM. I was asked to reach the airport for 3: 30 AM.  I heard shortly after arrival or landing, that flights to Jamaica were cancelled. Luckily for me my sister was in touch with me.  My grandmother is to be buried by the 16. I have not seen her lately. I have had friends send food to me at the airport. An American couple wanted to spend their first wedding anniversary in Jamaica. The wife was in tears.  Their plans were being ruined.”

So reported a distressed sounding passenger named Niko, who was stranded in Florida at the airport enroute to Kingston, Jamaica W.I.

We hope he and others get onto the earliest flight and will be able to attend the funeral for Saturday and or other planned activities as stated, on or about the 16th May, 2022

Radar

The decision of the Air Traffic Controllers walking off the job has costed the Jamaican government millions in lost income and most of all reputational damage to the tourism industry and by extension the Tourism product.

They controllers claimed that faulty radar equipment was their reason for the withdrawal of their services.

This must be a nightmare for these passengers who could not have anticipated this outcome.  Vacations are planned usually long in advance and time off from work has to be arranged.

Water

The water strike was not so devastating as many hotel properties either have wells or large storage facilities on stand by.  Clifton Reeder expressed a similar view.

Commentary

We hope good sense will prevail going forward. Jamaica’s recovery from the pandemic depends on all hands on deck so the economy can return to robustness and growth.

The claim that faulty radar equipment,  if true, cannot be scoffed at. Jamaica has signed on to international air safety agreements and lawsuits, in event of an air crash due to negligence can be very costly.  Our major airports in Montego Bay, a hub and Norman Manley in Kingston were effectively closed.

Hopeton O’Connor-Dennie is a poet, elegist, author, and senior international journalist who writes for Vision Canada.

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