Exclusive Interview With Gregg Truman of Air Jamaica

Air Jamaica began operations in 1969, when it was owned by the Government of Jamaica, At this time, Air Canada, which held a minority interest in the airline provided equipment, technology, training, pilots and management. Air Jamaica was later aquired by the Jamaican Government,and has since expanded to include gateways in American States, as well as service to Europe and Nassau.

The carrier can now boast of many improvements, including brightly coloured aircraft and the expansion of on-board amenities. These improvements were made to comply with the new airline service goal “to combine the elegant travel of yesteryear with the technology of today”

In an exclusive interview, Gregg Truman, Marketing Director for Air Jamaica answers some questions regarding online activity for Air Jamaica .

1. When did Air Jamaica first go online and how much has your site evolved from this date?

-We have been on the Web since the second quarter of 1998, and The Site has had three annual make-overs, the last of which was in May 2001, This took The Site to a new level with its interactivity for our Seventh Heaven and Cargo Departments, and an expansion of our Destinations content.

2. You clearly have a very professional web site. Who designed it? Are you pleased with it?

-We are very pleased with it, even though we lack a lot of the glitz and extraneous information found on similar sites, we want our Visitors to come to our Site for the information they seek, and find it without unnecessary distraction. The original Site was done in collaboration with one of our partner companies, but since then it has all been done in-house.


3. Could you quote a number of subscribers to your site?

-We have data-bases for our Special Promotions for Air and Package Deals as well as for our Seventh Heaven Members, which we use to keep in touch using the occasional e-Mail Broadcast. The Site attracts about 60,000 Unique Visitors each month delivering over 3 million hits.

4. What (special) online services can you offer clients?

-Our Booking Engine with Expedia permits the making of Reservations and the purchasing of tickets for most of our 350 Weekly Flights. We have a Caribbean Calendar Section which allows to Visitor to see what is Happening?Ein most of our Caribbean Destinations, so they can plan their trips accordingly. Passengers can now Apply for their 7th Heaven Membership OnLine, and our Shipping customers can use the Cargo Section to get the Status on their Shipments.

5. Do you find that Internet services enable you to communicate more effectively with clients?

-Absolutely! The time-lapse between events has been markedly reduced, permitting almost immediate feedback and response, so that we can react to or resolve any potential areas of concern. Our Customer Service and Web Information Services see positive responses from customers each and every day.

6. In what ways has being online changed the way that you do business?
-It has not necessarily changed the way we do business, but simply the way we communicate with our customers, making it easier for them to get information, make reservations, purchase tickets and field their concerns. Our Customers have always been Number One, whether it`s on board, at the airport, or at one of our national special events, or in cyberspace.

7. How do you feel that being online has benefited Air Jamaica overall?

-It has been a positive experience, and one which will continue to evolve as we continue our deliberate growth as a Service Airline with the comfort and satisfaction of each and every passenger on each and every Flight. The Internet can only enhance our Goal in this respect.

8. How important do you consider providing users with a multi-lingual web presence to be?

-Our Site is seen and responded to WorldWide, but we have not pushed for multi-lingual capability, although we have it on the drawing board, and did venture into that realm recently with our World Championships of Dominoes which had participants from many Latin countries, and we attempted to accommodate them with the Rules and Planning leading up to and including the Event, and it was such a success, we plan to use the same format next year and build on it. Although we have Offices WorldWide, and a Special Regional Office in the Far East, we often get direct queries on The Site from Indonesia, New Zealand, Russia, Spain and Europe, and many more non-Air Jamaica-type locations.

9. Has your system been distributed world-wide?

-As far as we know from our traffic logs onto The Site, and as much as is evident by the e-Mail communications from those far-ways locations listed above.
10. Is it particularly popular in any areas?

-Naturally the U.S. remains our Number One Source of Internet traffic with the latest numbers being over 60%, and Jamaica second and the U.K. in the number three spot, but our country list of acknowledged visits run the gauntlet from Canada to Qatar, which produced 128 sessions last month.
11. What sections, of your web site (if any) appear to attract more visitors?

-Our most popular Sections are our Caribbean Destinations, closely followed by whatever Specials we may be running during that time period. Seventh Heaven is in the Top Five with Cargo, Route Information and Office Locations rounding off the Top Ten.
13. What percentage of bookings are made directly online compared to
those made through an agent?

-Less than 5%, but we plan for that to triple over the next twenty-four months. Our Agents will always be an invaluable tool and resource for us, and we are in the middle of designing a Special Section just for them, which will assist them even more when promoting and selling our Gateways and Destinations.
14. The events of September 11th have clearly sent shock-waves through the entire travel industry. How was Air Jamaica affected?

-Quite seriously, but we have been running a lean, efficient machine for years, so there was not much left to trim. Our economic losses have only served to bringing the Air Jamaica family closer together with the ultimate goal of 100% customer satisfaction. We are proud that, apart from normal attrition, we have lost no one as a result of these grave circumstances. If there is one disappointment, apart from the sorrow and grief of the event, it is that we were on-track for a profitable year, the first in many years, and that fell by the way-side.
15. Have you found your online services to be beneficial at this difficult time?

-No more than any other contributing segment of the company. But naturally, it did help us put the finger-on-the-pulse for some weeks after, and we have made certain changes on The Site to be able to respond quicker to events which may occur in the future, whether it be weather, social or economic.

16. What proportion of your marketing budget is spent online? Do you expect this figure to rise in 2002?

-Less than 5%, and yes, we did increase it for 2002, as we move toward 100% utilization of the Internet and its resources. If all goes according to plan we should have our very own in-house Booking Engine launched during the Second Quarter, and this will go a long way to expand the eCommerce-bility of the Site and all that entails.
17. Judging by the outlay of your web page, you must have made a great investment?

-We did not have the luxury of a large Budget for The Site, so the steps along the way have been small, but thorough and deliberate. This formula has been maintained and continues to provide us the results we expect.
18. How does this compare with profit?

-Naturally, the more we are able to provide OnLine the better it is for our Bottom-Line, but as we have learnt over the years with repeat passenger after repeat passenger; Comfort, Security and Satisfaction are our primary goals, and, we know that once we have achieved these then profitability is sure to follow.
19. Do you have plans for expansion of your online capablilities?

As mentioned previously, we have a number of items on the drawing board, not the least of which is our very own Booking Engine, Membership Account Access for our 7th Heaven Members, Instant Pricing for our Private and Commercial Cargo Shippers, Virtual Tours, Wireless Messaging, and an expansion of our Fleet Section for the Airline afficianadoes. All in all, it is going to be a challenging and fruitful period over the next twenty-four months, as we continue to Soar to New and Greater Heights.