North-west agents back Air Jamaica despite drugs row – TravelMole true

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North-west agents back Air Jamaica despite drugs row

Thursday, 04 Jan, 2002 0

Agents in the north-west have told TravelMole they will still welcome Air Jamaica’s new Manchester service despite claims by a British diplomat that as many as one in 10 of all passengers flying between the UK and Jamaica could be smuggling cocaine.

According to senior British diplomat Phil Sinkinson, the deputy high commissioner in Jamaica, as many as one in 10 passengers flying to Britain from the island smuggle the Class A drug. He said that each flight from Jamaica to London is probably carrying around 66lb of cocaine hidden in plastic bags swallowed by smugglers.

Air Jamaica operates five flights a week to Jamaica from London Heathrow with frequencies increasing to nine per week from March 2002. The carrier is also due to start its twice weekly service between Manchester and Jamaica on June 1.

Customs & Excise north west spokesman Matthew King told TravelMole he did not believe the new flight was cause for concern. He said: “From my understanding at the moment we are only facing one flight a week coming in to Manchester airport from Montego Bay. While it causes us a problem the figures being bandied about are not appropriate for Manchester. June is six months away and we don’t know what the situation wiill be by then. We are working hard in Jamaica and the other Caribbean countries and it may be that it pays off and the problem decreases.”

The new Air Jamaica flight has been welcomed by Manchester’s Jamaican community, as well as local travel agents because previously people wanting to visit friends and relatives in Jamaica had to travel via London or take an Airtours charter flight which operates twice weekly from Manchester airport.

Miss Ellie’s World Travel on Oldham Road has a large number of afro-caribbean clients. Long haul specialist Kirsty Sugden believes the new flight should not cause concern. She said: “To be honest most of our clients are quite elderly and respectable. I wouldn’t have thought they were drug smugglers.”

In a statement the airline said: “Air Jamaica cooperates fully with the authorities in both the UK and Jamaica to ensure that all passengers flying with the airline both to and from Jamaica are subject to strict security measures.

“Security is and will always be the top priority for Air Jamaica. Like all other incoming passengers to the UK Air Jamaica passengers comply with immigration controls and those enforced by Customs & Excise.”

British Airways is the only other carrier to operate between the UK and Jamaica. A BA spokeswoman told TravelMole: “We will cooperate fully with any initiative to crack down on drug smuggling from Jamaica. Under our rights of carriage we have the right to refuse to carry passengers who we believe are in unlawful possession of drugs.”


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