MIAMI – In January 2017, Southwest announced the launch of 4 new services to Grand Cayman; Cancun, Mexico; Montego Bay, Jamaica and Belize City, Belize from Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport (FLL) commencing on June 4, 2017.
Following the sneak peak of the new Southwest terminal on June 1st, Airways was able to join one of the new inaugurals to Montego Bay, Jamaica.
It was a rainy Sunday morning where it was very evident that there were special happenings going on Terminal 1 Concourse B. The first new service of the day was not an international service but a connection between Fort Lauderdale and Orlando, on the special “Florida One” aircraft.
However, the inaugural international flights all had different festivities going on at their assigned departure gates and as all the flights were due to depart within approximately 75 minutes of each other, the terminal was abuzz with different festivities.
For our departure to Montego Bay, Jamaica, tables of traditional Jamaican food were set up close to the departure gate and passengers were able to sample the offerings of the island.
Several dignitaries were on hand for the launch of this service, as well.
Joining the flight among others were Jamaican Minister of Tourism, the Hon. Edmund Bartlett, Director of the Jamaican Tourism Board, Paul Pennicook and Southwest Airlines Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion, Ms. Ellen Torbert.
As time approached for boarding, Ms. Tolbert and The Hon. Mr. Bartlett invited passengers to board the flight.
Ms. Tolbert said: “We are so excited to be in this intimate setting in Concourse B, but if you look out across the window, that is where our international terminal is going to be” pointing out the new Concourse A in Terminal 1 that was previewed to media on June 1.
The Hon. Mr. Bartlett added: “Thank you Southwest Airlines. I want to thank you and welcome you to Jamaica aboard this inaugural flight to Montego Bay. I’m flying with you today to make sure that you feel not only the warmth of Jamaica but that you also have the sense of how paradise will feel the minute you land in Montego Bay.”
As passengers boarded the aircraft, they received a beach towel and gift bags from the designer Lilly Pulitzer with whom Southwest Airlines had partnered for this inaugural service.
The flight pushed back and took off from a gloomy and rainy Fort Lauderdale and departed on a 1 hour 20 minutes, at times very bumpy, flight to Montego Bay.
Once airborne, passengers were involved in some entertainment that resulted in prizes of Southwest air travel vouchers and complimentary drinks before landing in the sunshine of Montego Bay.
Once the aircraft passed through the water cannon salute and parked at the gate, passengers disembarked and media and special guests were entertained at a small press gathering with the dignitaries that were on the flight. Also, they were joined by the CEO of Montego Bay Airport, Dr. Rafael Echevarne.
Mr. Paul Pennicook, Director of the Jamaican Tourism Board, acted as Master of Ceremonies.
“Welcome to this event where we are welcoming the inauguration of Fort Lauderdale – Montego Bay service by Southwest Airlines,” Pennicook said.
Dr. Echevarne then addressed the group adding “It is for an airport a real pleasure to welcome new flights from new airports, in this case a new flight by an airline that is very dear to us”.
He added: “We hope that we get many more flights by Southwest, we will do whatever is in our capacity as an airport operator, and we love this airline that I know will make a huge impact on Montego Bay and Jamaica. This is a very exciting time for Montego Bay as we are initiating our 3rd phase of improvement at this airport,” referring to the extension of the runway and the terminals at the airport.
Ms. Ellen Torbert of Southwest Airlines was next to address the small gathering. She noted: “We are thrilled to add another non-stop route to Montego Bay.” Southwest currently flies direct to Montego Bay from Chicago Midway, Baltimore, Houston Hobby and Orlando.
She also said: “Beginning today, our summertime schedule is now a record with 6 departures a day. We continue with our bags fly free, no change fees ever, free refreshments and television on your own devices provided by our inflight satellite wifi and worldwide hospitality, but most of all its our people. Our people who keep you coming back, that keep the 120 million people annually coming back to Southwest Airlines.”
Following her comments, Ms. Torbert presented the Minister with a model replica of a Southwest Airlines jet.
Mr. Pennicook then introduced the Minister adding in his introduction: “In our quest to get to 5 million visitors in 5 years, one of the intricate parts of doing that is getting additional air lift and so I can tell you that the Minister and myself are very pleased to welcome yet another inaugural flight and Southwest, we thank you for opening up Fort Lauderdale to Montego Bay.”
Finally, the Minister, the Hon. Edmund Bartlett addressed the gathering.
He said “Southwest is a major partner that has grown in leaps and bounds. In the quest to drive arrivals and to build up economic growth and prosperity in our country, air lift forms the central infrastructure. There is no way the connectivity can be realized without carefully planned and properly executed air lift arrangements and I’m very pleased that we are able to continue the program, a program that has gone well over the years to bring more flights into Jamaica and whilst today we are celebrating Southwest’s new route to Montego Bay, we want to indicate to you that this is the first of 4 more that we will do in the summer of this year.”
With regards to Southwest, the Minister added “Southwest has been a valued partner over the last few years after Southwest introduced Jamaica as its first overseas destination for the low-cost-carrier. What a beautiful choice and what a fantastic partnership. Southwest is the most connected airline in the United States of America. Southwest moves from more gateways and secondary airports than any other airline and therefore the connection with Jamaica is proud. So the growth projections that we have for the U.S. market are well founded because we are connected. It is special to come with a full flight on the inaugural and I am very proud of the Southwest team.”
Southwest began its initial foray into international service from Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport in August 2016 with its service to Nassau, Bahamas. Following that in November 2016, service was initiated to Cuba with the cities of Varadero, Santa Clara and Havana.
Writers note: Travel and accommodation in Jamaica were courtesy of Southwest Airlines, the Jamaican Tourism Board and Iberostar Resort, opinions are the writers.