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TRAVEL - American Airlines leads market share of travellers to Jamaica

Jamaica Observer - AIR Jamaica last year dropped below American Airlines as the number one carrier of passengers from the United States, as new entrants to the market aggressively grabbed up market share while the national carrier — now owned and operated by Caribbean Airlines retreated from unprofitable routes. Recently published data from the US Bureau of Transportation Statistics showed the volume of passengers travelling from the US to Jamaica increased by five per cent over year-earlier levels to 1.48 million in 2010.

Air Jamaica brought in approximately 315,370, or 21 per cent of air travellers from the US last year, compared to 428,810, or 30 per cent in 2009. At the same time, American Airlines numbers also reflected a decline — 371,580 passengers, or 26 per cent in 2009 compared to 341,940, or 23 per cent of the overall market last year, which placed it as the number one carrier.

The decline for both Air Jamaica and American, were due to growth in numbers for newcomers JetBlue, which grew its share from three per cent in 2009, when it started operating, to 10 per cent last year, and AirTran, which was almost non-existent in 2009 and which carried six per cent of all arrivals from the US in 2010.

Delta Airlines also increased its share of arrivals from 12 per cent in 2009 to 16 per cent in 2010.

AirTran's insurgence largely reflected its ability to snap up shares in markets within which Air jamaica has ceased operations. For instance, AirTran carried 32,600 of the 46,920 passengers arriving from Baltimore last year, a route which Air Jamaica ceased servicing in June 2010, while the new carrier brought in 12,060 of the 38,860 passengers from Orlando, when the national carrier stopped flying in March 2010.

At the same time, AirTran carved out a piece of the Atlanta route for itself, claiming 16 per cent of that route for itself, even though it really translated into overall higher numbers from Atlanta as Delta — the route leader — flew in 168,060 persons in 2010, or 23,000 more passengers than the year before.

Growth in the Atlanta numbers for Delta, coupled with larger numbers arriving from New York -- a route which Air Jamaica has far dominated for a long time — translated into a higher share of the Jamaica market for that airline, but JetBlue's numbers may be a more meaningful threat to the national carrier.

JetBlue grew its share of New York from the 15 per cent of the passengers it carried in 2009 — even though it started operations in May -- to 37 per cent in 2010, or right next to Air Jamaica, which carried 40 per cent of the passengers from New York, down from 60 per cent a year before.

The only other market for which Air Jamaica has maintained dominance — Fort Lauderdale — shrank overall from 218,820 arriving passengers to 193,520, which resembled the drop in arrivals from the other Florida-based international airport located in Miami, from where American alone flies. Arrivals from Miami fell from 292,180 in 2009 to 264,680 last year.

The shift in market shares not only made American overtake Air Jamaica as the number one carrier from the US, but it placed Delta at number three, above US Airways, which, with its monopoly on flights from Charlotte, carried 133,830 passengers, or 14 per cent of all persons arriving from the US last year.

Data from the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) showed that 1.24 million of the 1.48 million arrivals in 2010 represented stopover tourists, while the growth in numbers was primarily due to higher arrivals of residence from the north-east, or more specifically from New York and Pennsylvania.

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