The azure skies of the Caribbean are likely to get even bluer if high-level discussions between JetBlue Airways/JetBlue Vacations and Sandals Resorts International (SRI) result in increased flights by the airline as more tourists flock to the region.
Top brass of JetBlue, led by Vice-President of Network Planning and Airline Partnerships Dave Jehn, and Sandals led by Chief Executive Officer Gebhard Rainer, met Monday at SRI’s flagship Sandals Montego Bay for what was said to be fruitful talks.
JetBlue already flies to most of the islands served by Sandals, but the discussions focused mainly on the possibility of increased frequency of flights and addition of new destinations, such as St Vincent, where SRI’s newest resort is taking shape based on relentless demand from visitors who can’t seem to get enough of the Caribbean.
“The Caribbean and northern South America accounts for 30 per cent of JetBlue’s network,” Jehn told the Jamaica Observer after the meeting which featured the trademark video presentation on Sandals’ offerings.
Jehn said his six-member delegation’s visit to Montego Bay would provide a greater understanding of what Sandals had to offer and help JetBlue to decide where to add flights.
Both Jehn and Rainer described the partnership between their two organisations as “extremely important” and underscored their common desire to see it grow to take advantage of the demand for travel to the Caribbean, spurred by tourism’s recovery.
“We are extremely proud and happy to host the JetBlue delegation. The idea is for them to get a taste of Sandals and its world-class luxury all-inclusive vacation experience,” said Rainer who welcomed the delegation on behalf of SRI Executive Chairman Adam Stewart whose wife, Jill, died July 15.
“We also wanted to discuss with them how to continue to strengthen our relationship with not only our Jamaican resorts but across the 10 islands of the Caribbean where we have resorts,” Rainer added.
“Sandals provides a solid foundation to increase opportunities for additional airlift for JetBlue, which we also value greatly for opening up the north-east United States and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to us.”
President of JetBlue Travel Products (JTP) Andres Barry said Sandals was “a premium product for customers based on the level of service offered, the quality of the amenities, and the beauty of the property”.
“We are looking for ways to grow our partnership. Today’s meeting gave a clear understanding of where Sandals is growing and how they are innovating the product. This is the kind of information that points the way forward,” he told the Observer.
Alex Marte, vice-president of airline relationships and sales development at Unique Vacations Inc (UVI), affiliate of the worldwide representatives of Sandals and Beaches, said they were particularly excited that JetBlue was showing interest in St Vincent and the Grenadines as a destination.
He said the airline would be embarking on an exploratory trip to that island and noted that since Sandals opened its resort in Curacao last year JetBlue had increased its flights there from three per week to five times per week and was now looking to have daily flights.
The JetBlue delegation also comprised Amy Castignetti, head of commercial; Lisa Webb, senior hotel contracting manager; Jessica Steinberg, director lead marketing; and Aaron Lawler, all of JetBlue Travel Products.
Sandals’ representatives included Gary C Sadler, executive vice-president of sales and industry relations, UVI; Melissa Sangster, vice-president of tour operator sales and marketing; and Marsha Myers, national business development manager, tour operator sales.