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US says ‘No’ to Fly Jamaica, Caribbean Airlines direct GEO-NY flights

Chief Executive Officer of Fly Jamaica, Capt. Ronald Reece

The United States Department of Transportation (Dot) has denied requests Caribbean Airlines and Fly Jamaica to fly direct from Georgetown to New York, saying the carriers did not provide compelling evidence that doing so will be in the public’s interest.

“In light of these existing Georgetown-New York services and the lack of a showing by the applicants on the record that there is a truly demonstrable need for additional Georgetown-New York services, we are unable to find that the CAL and Fly Jamaica seventh freedom turnaround proposals satisfy our public interest test for the type of extraordinary authority at issue,’ states the order dated September 30.

The Guyana government had hoped that the granting of flag carrier statuses to Caribbean Airlines and Fly Jamaica would have aided those airlines in offering cheaper direct flights from Georgetown to New York.

But the DoT said the applications did not pass the test that would have aided American authorities to conclude that a demonstrable need for the service exists, there would be a negligible impact on U.S. flag carriers, and the proposed operation is limited in scope. “Against that background, we have reviewed the applications of CAL and Fly Jamaica and determined that we cannot make the necessary public interest finding,” states DoT.

The US regulatory agency assured that the decisions would not affect Fly Jamaica and Caribbean Airlines’ flights to New York through Kingston and Port-of-Spain respectively.

Petitions against the order could be filed within seven days of that action although, according to DoT, filing of petitions would not alter its effectiveness which began Wednesday. Fly Jamaica’s Chief Executive Officer, Ronald Reece said no decision has been taken about whether to appeal the order. “They have seven days to appeal and we have not made a decision yet. The Board is still looking at it,” he told Demerara Waves Online News.

Two organisations-Airlines for America and the Air Line Pilots Association- had opposed the requests by the Fly Jamaica and Caribbean Airlines. Air Line Pilots Association has contended that oil-rich Trinidad and Tobago has been providing a “substantial fuel subsidy” to CAL “and at least one US carrier has ceased services in the market. For all of these reasons, the Department should deny these applications.”  The Trinidad and Tobago government has since announced that it would be scrapping the subsidy from next month. Airlines for America had stated that granting the applications will reward behaviours and policies in the region that have resulted in less choice because market distortions have resulted in the withdrawal of service on the route

The DoT in its order acknowledged concerns raised by ALPA and A4A pertaining to fuel subsidies paid to CAL but said “we have been advised through diplomatic channels that those subsidies have already ceased or will soon cease.”

Fly Jamaica hopes to use the one-stop in Kingston to its advantage by offering reasons to travel to that Caribbean island. They include concerts, festivals and games. Reece said the Kingston stop would also help intercept drugs that might leak through the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA).