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Afro Caribbean pilots start up new flight services

Bert Wilkinson | 10/3/2013, 6 a.m.

An Afro, Guyana-born aviator and his Jamaican partner have started up a commercial airline that they hope would take advantage of voids left by the disappearance of several other carriers from the region including Delta and Air Jamaica winning accolades from governments across the region as authorities worry about insufficient airlift for the lifeline tourism sector.

Fly Jamaica which has been operating flights between Kingston, Jamaica and New York since its appearance on the scene in July last week inaugurated a service to the Caribbean trade bloc headquarter nation of Guyana using a Boeing-757 owned, rather than leased, by Captain Ronald Reece and his family and threatening to expand new routes to Florida and Brazil in the coming months.

The new service has commenced just four months after mega carrier Delta pulled out of the New York-Georgetown, Guyana route citing unfair competition linked to heavy fuel subsidies the Trinidad government was giving to its own Caribbean Airlines. The subsidy has since been removed by Trinidadian authorities.

Fly Jamaica will operate between Guyana and New York with stops in Jamaica, opening new tourism possibilities for resort weddings at Jamaica’s world class all inclusive hotels as well as sports and heritage tourism opportunities that officials say would now be hard to miss with non-stop flights between the north and south Caribbean for the first time in decades. Reece says that the airline is even eying charter flights to Brazil for the Soccer World Cup next year.

The Reece family has partnered with veteran Jamaican aviator Captain Lloyd Tai and others to start up one of the first indigenous carriers serving trade bloc nations in recent decades. From all indications governments and the tourism sector in particular have thrown their full support behind the new upstart carrier.

Reece’s wife, Roxanne says that the airline will once again be buying a second aircraft, this time a Boeing-767 to work the Guyana route and to serve as a back up to the 757 in the event of technical or other difficulties.

For the family, the service is entirely a dream come through.

“We have had this dream for more than 30 years. We had applied to do this very thing in the 80s but our business plan was stolen and given to someone else. That airline did not last very long. We did so again in the 90s, cabinet approved it but then officials said all the documents were lost so we gave up until now,” Ms. Reece told Amnews.

Most other indigenous carriers, island hopper, LIAT, Caribbean Airlines, Suriname Air and Bahamas Air among others, are owned by governments and are bleeding annual combined losses of at least $200M annually. This one is the property of a private shareholding group involving the Reece’s, Captain Tai and others.

As an indication of how deeply governments have embraced the airline, three Guyana government ministers, including Prime Minister Samuel Hinds made the trip to the main airport to welcome the flight and hail this new era in intra-Caribbean relations at the level of the aviation sector. It was best summed up by Reece himself.

“What we have done basically is to create history by joining two countries by an air bridge,” said Reece, referring to the non-stop Georgetown-Kingston route that would now also make it easier for diplomats and businessmen heading to Guyana for meetings at trade bloc headquarters. End/bw