|Ja, US agree to Open Skies pact
Monday, November 04, 2002
Jamaica and the United States last week initialled an Open Skies agreement that will effectively give American and Jamaican airlines unrestricted access to each other's markets.
The pact, announced Thursday by the US Embassy in Kingston, was negotiated over three days in Washington DC and will enter into force upon signature by both governments, the embassy said.
"The agreement initialled today is a tribute to the aviation industry's vitality and to the strong commercial ties between the United States and Jamaica," the embassy said in a statement. "It creates important new opportunities to strengthen US-Jamaican economic relations through closer air links in tourism and trade."
No date was given for the official signing of the agreement. However, the embassy said that upon its entry into force, the pact will provide for "immediate implementation of nearly all Open Skies provisions, including substantially open route rights, unrestricted capacity and frequencies, and code-sharing opportunities".
The agreement also contains a transitional annex which provides for implementation of certain rights relating to passenger charter services within a few years.
Exactly five months ago, US Ambassador to Jamaica, Sue Cobb, urged Kingston to establish an Open Skies arrangement with Washington on the basis that it would boost competition in the island's airline market and lead to a significant reduction in existing airfares.
"I must tell you frankly, if I were in your shoes, I'd be very unhappy about the comparatively high airfares between the United States and Jamaica. After all, we are 70 per cent of your market," Cobb told a Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association banquet in Montego Bay.
"Competition among more airlines on more routes would force the price of a ticket from North America to Montego Bay down dramatically," she said, adding that the accord would also give Air Jamaica "unfettered access" to all 50 states of the United States.
The idea of an Open Skies agreement between the US and the Caribbean has been on the agenda for several years. In fact, in September 2000, American and Caribbean aviation experts met in Kingston for two days, hoping to disentangle the complex issues that could hamper such an agreement.
Significantly for the Americans, it would have to negotiate with a single entity, Caricom, rather than engage in a series of bilateral agreements.
In October 2000, Jamaica and the US negotiated an all-cargo Open Skies agreement, but last week's comprehensive Open Skies accord will replace the all-cargo agreement when it enters into force.
It is the 59th bilateral Open Skies agreement negotiated by the United States.
"The Open Skies agreement creates opportunities for Jamaican and US air carriers to develop our two countries' aviation market," the US Embassy said. "Such shared commercial interests build a foundation for the close bilateral co-operation that both our governments seek to promote."
The United States has similar agreements with several other Caribbean countries, including the Netherland Antilles, Aruba and the Dominican Republic.