News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Oct. 4, 2013: How often do you board a flight and hear a fellow passenger in the seat in front of you asking the question: “What exactly is ackee?”
Welcome to the new flying option for Guyanese New Yorkers to “yard” – Fly Jamaica.
The airline made history on Friday, September 27th, World Tourism Day, by launching the first weekly direct flight from JFK to Guyana, some seven months after its own debut from Jamaica to New York.
The launch means that for the first time the cities of New York, Kingston and Georgetown (well Timehri actually) – are all connected since one leg of the flight has to stop in Kingston, Jamaica because of a U.S. DOT ruling.
It means passengers can fly direct to Guyana but must tolerate an immigration and security check in Kingston, Jamaica before boarding a flight to New York or simply choosing to vacation there.
(See related story here)
“We are very proud of this achievement. We feel it fills a void,” Kayla Reece, the assistant area manager tells me as the Boeing 757 piloted by Captain Neil Savory and First officer Derek Gardner, both Guyanese, glides through the U.S. skies to Guyana and the smiling inflight crew of Ruth Dyer-Straw, Elizabeth Hyatt, Ovony Long, Bridget Orrestt, Marcia Sherman and Lisa Love fuss over passengers with sincere warmth.
Reece is the daughter of the airline’s CEO Ronald Reece, a Guyanese national and shareholder in the carrier, who sees the vision of connecting the two nations and the Diaspora. He is no stranger to the airline business. A captain himself, he and his wife has been the proud owners of Air Guyana, a Wings Aviation company that operates private charters out of Ogle, Guyana’s second airport.
Now the Reece family is hoping their national pride and vision for a connected Caribbean will reap them dividends on the weekly Guyana flight from Terminal 1 at JFK Airport.
There are no subsidies or huge operational budgets just yet for this carrier – only the will and commitment to offer their own, a brand they can call “home.”
And there are no pretzels on Fly Jamaica either. It’s a solid meal – yes there is ackee and saltfish too – that many Guyanese welcomed heartily, feeling it was well worth the some US$800 they had paid for the return ticket.
Disembarking passengers, many returning Guyanese, welcomed the new flight with pleasure.
Some said enough of that Trinidad airline that gave us “hard shark and bake” while others lauded the service and the ticket prices.
A New Jersey based Guyanese with business in Guyana said he travels to the country 24 times per year and welcomes the new carrier as great on his wallet.
“It’s almost 800 round trip compared to $1,400 at times,” he said.
An elder Guyanese couple, originally from Berbice, Guyana, said they were simply waiting for a new option as the price for both of them before was something they simply could not afford.
But while all welcomed and lauded the new service, some burnt from past carriers that came and went, expressed cautious optimism.
They’ve been down this road too many times and with no direct flights between New York and Guyana, having to worry about ticket prices and immigration hassles is enough.
“I hope they stay,” said a returning Canje-born national even a Brooklyn –based national called for wider promotion so more Guyanese could learn of the airline.
He only heard of it from his Jamaican friend and decided to book for his two week vacation, two weeks prior, he disclosed.
Reece is aware of such concerns and insists they will be doing a better job at promoting ahead of the Christmas holidays.
And she dispelled fears that the carrier may drop the route anytime soon insisting: “Our company owns the aircraft so we are committed to making this work and we hope to build loyalty and be there for the Jamaican and Guyanese travelling public.”
For bookings and more on Fly Jamaica, log on to https://www.fly-jamaica.com/