In the wake of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the Airports Authority of Jamaica (AAJ) and the management and stakeholders of Jamaica’s airports have taken a number of preventative and proactive measures to protect their passengers and workers.
The international gateways to Jamaica – Norman Manley International Airport (NMIA), Sangster International Airport (SIA), and the Ian Fleming International Airport (IFIA) continue to work closely with and facilitate on site activities of the Ministry of Health & Wellness (MoHW) to alleviate the spread of the virus. The safety and security of all passengers, airport workers and users are always of paramount importance to the airport operators.
Further to the restrictions now placed on travel from some countries by the Government of Jamaica, the following specific proactive and precautionary measures have been implemented at the country’s international airports:
Passengers are screened on arrival by heat sensing scanner for high body temperature prior to entering the Immigration Hall.
Increased stock levels of personal sanitizing items and personal protective equipment (PPE);
Quarantine Stations (located in the Incoming Immigration Hall) which facilitates a constant presence of Public Health Nurses. As per the Aerodrome Emergency Response Plan (AERP) regarding communicable diseases, passengers that meet criteria#1 (signs or symptoms) or criteria#2 (travel history) will be quarantined and transported to an off-site Ministry of Health facility by the Public Health Nurse/MoHW and given requisite provisions;
Bolstering of the Airport Emergency Response outfit with Fire Fighters that are also certified Emergency Medical Technicians; and
Joint inspection of the designated isolation surveillance areas of the airports with the Port Health team to ensure readiness;
Additionally, a number of communication and sensitization initiatives are being undertaken including:
Sensitization sessions, facilitated by the Director of International Health Regulations (IHR) with front line employees, first responders, Passport Immigration & Citizenship Agency (PICA), Customs, Jamaica Hotel & Tourism Association (JHTA) and other key airport stakeholders;
Dissemination /re-communication and reinforcement of international procedures in responding to communicable diseases;
The AAJ also remains committed to providing relevant information to all stakeholders. These will include:
The placement of special features on the new COVID-19 in monthly airport newsletters (distributed to entire airport community);
Dissemination of Airport Operations/Human Resources Bulletins on COVID-19 prevention and to encourage necessary behaviour change in employees and stakeholders;
Banners with general information on COVID-19 for strategic placement throughout the main terminals of the international airports; and
Links for online information regarding the COVID-19, including measures that travelers may take to protect themselves are posted on all corporate social media platforms.
The AAJ has been kept abreast of relevant information from the MoHW, as well as information from the World Health Organization (WHO) through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the Airports Council International (ACI) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) on existing guidance measures aimed at mitigating the spread of communicable diseases across borders and in particular, updated information on reducing the spread of the COVID-19.
Jamaica’s airports continue to be vigilant and unrelenting in its efforts to mitigate the spread of communicable diseases across borders and remind our airline partners of their fiduciary responsibility to ensure the strict implementation of related airline specific procedures as promulgated by the International Air Transport Association.
The reflective nature of the Holiday Season; the close of a remarkable decade and year, and the symbolism of the fast approaching New Year have provided me the perfect opportunity to pause and recognize our achievements as an organization, while embracing the future with even greater expectations.
The year 2019 can be characterized as one, when it all happened, a year of major accomplishments and change!
Firstly, the two scheduled gateways Sangster International Airport (SIA) and Norman Manley International Airport (NMIA) completed their second regulatory quinquennial aeronautical rate review, following the first review which was done in 2015 for a 12-year period.
Secondly, after several false starts at obtaining airport certification in safety and security for NMIA, since this requirement was mandated by the ICAO in 2003, certification was finally achieved in October 2019.
Thirdly, the Airports Authority of Jamaica (AAJ) marked its 45th anniversary, showing no signs of wrinkling but rather an impressive record of performance and renewed purpose in forging ahead with the broad scale development of the national airport system. Furthermore, with the successful execution of the Public Private Partnership (PPP) of two of the island’s airport, AAJ has uniquely positioned Jamaica as the regional leader and reference point for PPP models which is now the preferred method worldwide to unlocking private investment for optimal operational levels of vital national infrastructure assets.
Fourthly, after over 10 years of embarking on the mission to privatize NMIA in similar fashion to SIA, that transaction was successfully completed in October 2019, with the Mexican airport company Grupo Aeroportuario Del Pacifico (GAP) through PAC Kingston Airport Limited (PACKAL) now operating NMIA. The smooth handover belies the rigorous process (simultaneous maneuvering of numerous preconditions to be satisfied, legislative and ministerial orders that impact the operation of the NMIA/AAJ, joint agreement executions, capital works continuation, organizational de-merger and restructuring, redundancy – to name a few) that preceded, which could be likened to the surgical diligence reserved for the separation of Siamese twins.
Fifthly, after another round of infrastructure improvements at the Ian Fleming International Airport (IFIA) and the three Domestic Aerodromes (Tinson Pen, Ken Jones, and Negril), scheduled domestic service was reintroduced in ALL our airports via JamAir in July 2019.
Finally, turning to the Sangster International Airport (SIA), they copped their 11th successive award as Leading Caribbean Airport awarded by the prestigious World Travel Awards. This was supported by major refurbishments of their ticketing concourse, taxi-way and apron rehabilitation, and immigration ABM kiosks added in the arrivals concourse to improve processing time and reduce congestion. To top things off, ground was broken on December 12, 2019 for the Phase 3 (Runway Extension) programme to commence. WE DID IT! YES, WE DID IT ALL TOGETHER!
With both major airports now privatized, the AAJ has completely revamped the organization structure and processes to better represent the new roles and function of the organization going forward. This year therefore represents an epoch changing period in the life of the organization. It also represents a platform from which to chart new courses for the future and to take Jamaica’s aviation to new horizons.
Our organization’s achievements over the past year would not have been possible without the support and direction of our Minister and the leadership at the Ministry of Transport & Mining, and our Boards of Directors, so to them we extend sincere gratitude.
We also wish to specially recognize the contribution of our airport stakeholders to our achievements viz: the airlines, concessionaires, Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority, Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency, Jamaica Customs, Port Security Corps, Jamaica Defence Force, Jamaica Constabulary Force, and of course the other Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) that have provided valuable services to the organization and our airports.
As we are still in the Yuletide Season let me use this occasion to extend best wishes to you and your families for a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous 2020 and beyond!