Industrial action by air traffic controllers has caused mass cancellations of flights to Jamaica. At least 28 flights scheduled to arrive at the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay have been canceled, leaving hundreds of holidaymakers stranded. This included flights that were already in the air that had to be diverted to other airports as it is unclear when the air traffic controllers will cease their action and return to work.
According to Shannon Hislop who is the Manager of Commerical Development & Marketing at MBL Airports Limited, these flight cancellations have affected travelers from numerous departure points. A flight from Charlotte, North Carolina was turned back, a flight from JFK, New Work instead landed in Miami, and an Air Canada route was sent back to Toronto.
While there has been no announcement of how long the strike will continue, it is expected to last for at least the rest of the day. Highly placed sources within the airport have said that the striking air traffic controllers would return to work on Friday morning. This means that until such time as the workers are back in place, services at both Sangster and Norman Manley International airports will remain suspended.
Not all flights today were canceled or made to return to their departure airport. Travelers lucky enough to be on Frontier metal out of Atlanta and a Jet Blue flight out of New York were able to make it to Montego Bay before industrial action began. This was also true for passengers on a flight from Miami with American Airlines and a Sun Wing route from Toronto.
The reason for the action was sent to airports this morning by Howard Greaves. Greaves is the director, of air traffic management at the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA). The reason given was that there was limited staff available and as a result, the JCAA had to suspend its services at both airports because they were understaffed.
The deeper issue is that the air traffic controllers have not been happy with their lot for a little over three months. This action, which is impacting every arrival and departure at the two main international airports, had been rumored. A disagreement during talks over salary negotiations with the Ministry of Finance was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
The full strike has come after a couple of smaller protests within the last month. The air traffic controllers went out sick three weeks ago causing problems with the flow of air traffic. They also repeated this silent protest just two nights ago, hoping their small displays of discontent would for the Ministry back to the negotiating table before a more drastic work stoppage occurred.
This is obviously a disaster for holidaymakers trying to get to Jamaica. It will lead to flights (which were already busy) being even more difficult to book over the next couple of weeks. There is also the worry that this will only be the start of a number of strikes, potentially causing more cancellations in the coming weeks and months. Travelers are advised to keep an eye on this developing situation if planning a trip to Jamaica soon.
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