Jamaica’s black, green, and gold flew high at JetBlue’s Fort Lauderdale counter on April 30. Celebrating its inaugural flight from the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International airport to Kingston Jamaica, JetBlue executives and ground staff alike worked hand-in-hand to make every passenger feel the Jamaican spirit.
“When we look at the destinations and the demonstrated needs, there is a gap in serving the Jamaican community. We can’t ignore the fact that we have 70,000 Jamaicans in the Broward County area and another 50,000 in Miami-Dade. So there are 120,000 Jamaicans that need reliable service and what better way than for us to start servicing these customers from Fort Lauderdale,” said Albert Ruiz, Marketing Manager for the Southeast region.
The fact that the airline offers the first checked bag free is also a plus for JetBlue.
“We know that everyone going back home is bringing something for someone, so why would we want our customers to pay for that. That’s how we differentiate ourselves from the pack,” Ruiz added.
With this new service, JetBlue now offers two scheduled flights daily from Fort Lauderdale to Kingston: 7:20 AM and 4:50 PM with return legs at 9:00 AM and 6:30 PM. This means travelers can fly into Kingston in the morning, conduct business then return to Fort Lauderdale in the evening.
Asked if the airline will expand its Fort Lauderdale service to Montego Bay, Ruiz said that the airline has grown gradually in markets depending on customer need and response to existing cities. For example, the airline expanded its service to the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Costa Rica. The Jamaican route too has seen growth. Originally service was out of New York’s JFK airport into Kingston, then the airline added legs from Boston to Montego Bay then Orlando to Montego Bay. This new service out of Fort Lauderdale is yet another addition to its service to the island.
“We are happy, we hope this turns out to be a success. We are ready and willing to listen to the Jamaican community.”
The cost of flights has always been a factor for many as they make flight arrangements. A web search across airline companies puts JetBlue in an advantageous position in regard to rates.
“When we enter a market we always have introductory rates. But, you are not just paying for a seat, you are paying for an experience. Your vacation, your coming back home starts from the moment you get to our airport. Actually, from the moment you call in to make that reservation you will find that our customer service is bar none, one of the best, which is why we have won the J.D. Power & Associates Award so many times,” the marketing manager confirmed.
Rick DeMarco, the company’s General Manager noted that about twenty-five percent of JetBlue’s workforce are from Jamaica and their passion for the island was one of the motivating forces behind the company’s decision to fly into Kingston.
“Of course there were a number of different factors that went into the decision, said Ruiz. “But the fact that our crew members were passionate about it also helped... We had to look at what makes sense, what will differentiate us and make us grow, Kingston was a logical solution.”
Pilot Ricardo Williamson couldn’t be happier. The Jamaican-born JetBlue captain made his first flight into Jamaica as part of the airline’s inaugural service to Kingston. He left Jamaica twenty-three years ago, and although he has visited over the years, Williamson has never flown into the island manning the aircraft. April 30 was a special day for him and his co-pilot Brian Luke, a first-timer to the island.
“It was very emotional for me,” said Williamson.
As the services grow, JetBlue will operate up to seven flights daily to Jamaica from various U.S. cities. And who knows, perhaps you could be lucky enough to experience Williamson’s exceptionally smooth landing.