Fri | Apr 12, 2024

American Airlines makes historic touchdown on Ian Fleming tarmac

Published:Sunday | February 25, 2024 | 12:07 AMJanet Silvera - Senior Gleaner Writer
Jamaican-born captain, Marc Coley, shows off his Jamaican flag after landing the Embraer 175 American Eagle aircraft with 71 passengers on board at the Ian Fleming International Airport in Boscobel, St Mary, on Saturday afternoon.
Jamaican-born captain, Marc Coley, shows off his Jamaican flag after landing the Embraer 175 American Eagle aircraft with 71 passengers on board at the Ian Fleming International Airport in Boscobel, St Mary, on Saturday afternoon.
Minister of Transport, Daryl Vaz (centre), being assisted by the American Eagle crew, executives of the Airports Authority of Jamaica, American Airlines and Sandals Resorts International to cut the ribbon officially welcoming the AA inaugural flight to the
Minister of Transport, Daryl Vaz (centre), being assisted by the American Eagle crew, executives of the Airports Authority of Jamaica, American Airlines and Sandals Resorts International to cut the ribbon officially welcoming the AA inaugural flight to the Ian Fleming International Airport in St Mary yesterday.
Executive Chairman of Sandals Resorts International, Adam Stewart (second left), accepts a special citation from the Airports Authority of Jamaica on behalf of his late father Gordon 'Butch' Stewart. Also pictured from left are Minister of Transport, Daryl
Executive Chairman of Sandals Resorts International, Adam Stewart (second left), accepts a special citation from the Airports Authority of Jamaica on behalf of his late father Gordon 'Butch' Stewart. Also pictured from left are Minister of Transport, Daryl Vaz; chairman of AAJ, Mark Hart; and Member of Parliament for St Mary Western, Robert Montague.
American Airlines executives Wellesley Joseph (left), senior regional manager, Western Caribbean; and Jose Maria Giraldi (centre), managing director, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, share lens with senior director in Jamaica’s Ministry of Tour
American Airlines executives Wellesley Joseph (left), senior regional manager, Western Caribbean; and Jose Maria Giraldi (centre), managing director, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, share lens with senior director in Jamaica’s Ministry of Tourism, David Dobson, during the ceremony to welcome American Airlines’ first flight from Miami International Airport to the Ian Fleming International Airport in St Mary yesterday.
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WESTERN BUREAU:

After pioneering the development of an international airport in St Mary, Member of Parliament Robert Montague has set his sights on a new milestone: daily flights, now that American Airlines has landed on the Ian Fleming tarmac.

On Saturday, Boscobel, St Mary, made history when the world’s largest airline inaugurated its third destination in Jamaica, with a flight from Miami International Airport (MIA) to Ian Fleming International Airport (OCJ), carrying 71 passengers on its Embraer 175 aircraft.

The new route, branded as 'Ocho Rios Jamaica' in the American Airlines reservation system, will operate twice a week on Saturdays and Wednesdays.

Addressing a sizable audience at the inauguration, Montague expressed enthusiasm for the partnership with American Airlines, marking the advent of the first scheduled commercial jet service. While acknowledging the significance of the initial biweekly schedule, Montague emphasised aspirations for daily flights and expansion to additional departure points, including New Orleans, Atlanta, Tampa, and Ft. Lauderdale.

He also noted that other carriers have shown interest in serving the route, attributing this to the presence of American Airlines, and advocated for healthy competition in the aviation sector.

"The Cubans have visited the Ian Fleming International Airport (IFIA) and expressed interest in utilising the facility for both business and leisure travel,” he revealed.

The land on which the airport stands was generously donated to the Government by the late Abe Issa, founder of Couples Resorts. Notable figures such as the late Sandals chairman Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart, late aviation pioneer Major Dudley Beek, and hotelier Chris Blackwell played key roles in the development of the facility.

"I still have two more missions to complete," Montague promised, offering a glimpse of forthcoming plans to honour Beek, Issa, Stewart and Blackwell with permanent recognition at the airport, possibly through the installation of storyboards.

"Secondly, I aim to change the call sign from Ocho Rios to Boscobel," he declared, prompting a resounding round of applause.

The St Mary Western MP explained his decision to boycott the opening of the Ian Fleming Airport, citing his disagreement with naming the route as 'Ocho Rios Jamaica'. While he acknowledged the rationale behind the decision, he maintains his stance against it, asserting that it is time for St Mary to receive the recognition it deserves.

As the first passenger to disembark the aircraft upon its landing, Montague had purchased a business class ticket when American Airlines initially announced its intention to fly into IFIA.

‘PROUD TO EXPAND OUR PRESENCE’

American Airlines’ Managing Director for Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, Jose Maria Giraldo, echoed Montague's enthusiasm, reaffirming the airline's commitment to Jamaica, a partnership spanning more than 45 years.

"We are proud to expand our presence with a third destination in the country, Ocho Rios," said Maria Giraldo.

"By connecting this beautiful destination with our Miami hub, American’s largest international gateway, we aim to open the doors of Ocho Rios to travellers from around the world."

With the launch of the third destination, the airline plans to further expand its robust schedule in Jamaica, offering more than 100 peak weekly flights this winter between 10 destinations, including Boston, Chicago, Charlotte, Dallas, New York, and Philadelphia.

‘MY FATHER WROTE THE PLAY WITH THE GREAT BOBBY MONTAGUE’

Hotelier Adam Stewart, serving as tourism ambassador, has already inaugurated a lounge in the airport. He was present yesterday to accept a tribute to his father, alongside the Beek children, who accepted the honour on behalf of their father.

“Today is a demonstration of what is to come for the incredible parish of St Mary, St Ann, and, of course, eastward towards Portland and St Thomas,” declared the executive chairman of Sandals Resorts International, adding that milestones don’t happen without vision.

“I am only here as the youngster who carried the ball, but my father wrote the play with the great Bobby Montague some years ago with a shared passion and vision, and I can’t tell you the goose bumps that I had seeing Mr Montague being the first passenger coming off the aircraft,” said Stewart.

He noted that the only other person he would have wanted to see walking down the steps was his dad, who he is sure was smiling down from above.

The journey, he said, started 14 years ago and over that time technology has afforded them the opportunity to have American Airlines, one of the island’s best friends, landing on the IFIA tarmac on Saturday.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com