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Kingston, Jamaica: December 23, 2015 – Eight days into the start of the 2015/16 Winter Tourist Season, the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay was buzzing with activity as it marked another major milestone, having the largest number of airline passengers passing through it in any single day.
This as airport officials and other stakeholders witnessed the flow of some 14,000 passengers through check-in, Immigration and Customs yesterday (December 22), within a very short timeframe and without any delays.
On hand to witness the historic occasion were Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) Chairman, Dennis Morrison; Executive Director of the Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA), Jennifer McDonald; President of Airports Authority of Jamaica, Audley Dietrich, led by Chief Executive Officer of MBJ Airports, operators of Sangster International, Dr. Rafael Echevarne.
Dr. Echevarne confirmed that the 14,000 passengers and 55 flights for the day “is an absolute record.” The flights included ten long haul runs, four coming from Germany and six from the United Kingdom.
He said MBJ Airports had been working very hard to see that operations ran smoothly and from all indications, “we’ve managed to do that.” To aid the process, an additional security lane was introduced with additional metal detectors to ensure security was not compromised.
There was also an increase in the number of Customer Agents identified in special uniforms that invited passengers with queries to “Ask Me”. The gold coloured polo shirts were also branded with the MBJ logo and the JTB’s marketing tagline, “Jamaica. Home of All Right.” Additionally, passengers were treated to Jamaican made ice cream, coconut water and juices as they made their way in continuously flowing lines. And on the outside, as they boarded buses that would take them to the three cruise ships in the Montego Bay Harbour, they were greeted on the inside by a two-man calypso band and on the outside by the popular sound of Reggae from Love Zone Band.
Mr. Morrison disclosed that Tuesday’s arrivals at the airport represented a 20 percent increase over the corresponding period last year. He attributed the increase to several things, notably marketing Jamaica as the destination of choice and working with various tour operators. “A particularly important factor in today’s visitor increase is the air-and-sea arrangement with Thomson in which the passengers arrive here to go on cruises; also, on the departure side you see people who arrived a couple weeks ago leaving.”
He was very pleased with what he had witnessed in the operations at all levels and commended the airport staff “for doing a really efficient job in extending courtesy to the passengers and assisting them in many ways.”
Mrs. McDonald was also satisfied with the contribution her agency had made to ensure the smooth flow of passengers through the airport. The staff was boosted with 39 officers being recruited island-wide and 23 assigned to Montego Bay, after graduating a week ago. Additionally, five persons were brought in from Kingston for the day and more immigration assistants employed to walk the floor and help passengers.
Also, a year ago PICA installed 10 immigration kiosks at the airport with funding from the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF). The kiosks enable electronic processing of immigration documents. “We have overall 18 percent of passengers using kiosks and that is really quite good,” said Mrs. McDonald. She said even the suppliers were surprised “at such a high uptake of the service especially here in Montego Bay.”
She disclosed that dialogue is now underway with TEF to have additional kiosks installed.