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Four-year wait for pre-COVID air traffic levels

Published:Tuesday | October 13, 2020 | 12:11 AM

Audley Deidrick, president and CEO of the Airports Authority of Jamaica (AAJ), says that based on international and local projections, it could take up to five years for Jamaica to see airline passenger traffic levels returning to pre-COVID numbers.

Before COVID-19 brought passenger traffic to a halt locally in March with the closure of the country’s borders, Jamaica was receiving between 400,000 and 500,000 airline passengers monthly to the island.

The AAJ boss told The Gleaner yesterday that the major aviation bodies globally such as the Airports Council International and the International Air Transport Association have forecast recovery in the order of four to five years. He said the AAJ was working with a similar timeline to see a return to pre-COVID levels in 2019.

Jamaica and other countries in the Caribbean rely heavily on tourism to generate aviation traffic.

“Tourism represents 80 per cent of Jamaica’s aviation traffic and so when there is a sudden shutdown of tourism, that is the magnitude of the fallout in the aviation traffic,” Deidrick asserted.

70,000 passengers per month

In late May and early June, the Government started to receive the return of Jamaicans on a small scale.

Deidrick said that by mid June, the numbers were increased to about 15,000, but under controlled conditions. He noted that the country was now seeing about 70,000 airline passengers per month.

The AAJ president assured the travelling public that all the stakeholders in the airport system, including the tourism players and the major airport operators, have put in place robust procedures and facilities for the processing of passengers.

He said that persons returning home or visiting the country “should feel that they can safely return to travelling in their normal way.”

Deidrick indicated that the major fallout in airline passenger traffic had impacted the revenues of the AAJ.