?Air Jamaica, the highly-indebted airline that T&T's Caribbean Airlines Ltd (CAL) is currently negotiating with regarding a proposed merger, on Tuesday announced the further reduction of its aircraft to six and plans to shed more routes, starting next month. The latest move by the cash-strapped national carrier comes in line with the Jamaica government's schedule to take the airline off its book and handing over the operations to Caribbean Airlines. "We are working with the Caribbean Airlines people with a view to completing by the end of March," said Dennis Lalor, chairman of the Air Jamaica Divestment Committee at a luncheon meeting hosted last week by businessman Gordon Butch Stewart in Kingston on Tuesday. Stewart, the owner of Sandals Resorts and was once led the Air Jamaica Acquisition Group until the Jamaica government assumed full responsibility for Air Jamaica in December 2004.
Air Jamaica's public relations office issued a statement stating that the suspension of service on several routes was driven by the departure of three aircraft from its fleet. "By April, Air Jamaica will operate six aircraft; one A319, four A320's and one A32," the statement read. "This fleet reduction has become necessary as we seek to meet our financial obligations, however Air Jamaica continues to be the best choice for convenient schedule and excellent service as we have ensured that adequate capacity is provided on our core routes," stated Bruce Nobles, Air Jamaica's president and chief executive officer. The routes to be suspended are New York (JFK) to Grenada and Jamaica to Orlando, effective March 9, 2010, while the airline plans to suspend Jamaica to Chicago, Jamaica to Curacao, Jamaica to Havana and Jamaica to Nassau come April 12, 2010.
The move is expected to have a devastating impact on informal commercial operators doing business in Cura�ao and Grenada, and students studying in Cuba. "By April 12, Air Jamaica will operate 161 weekly flights between Jamaica and five cities with daily service to Baltimore, Philadelphia and Toronto, three daily flights to New York (JFK) and four daily flights to Fort Lauderdale," the statement read. The news also comes days after the Government reportedly signed a non-binding letter of intent with CAL. However, Granville Valentine, president, National Workers Union, is not convinced by Nobles' explanation and is calling on divestment committee head, Dennis Lalor, and the Bruce Golding-led administration to come clean in relation to the deal. "A level of secrecy surrounds this letter of intent," stated Valentine.