Air Jamaica is moving ahead with plans for a co-operation agreement with Delta Air Lines after the USA upgraded Jamaica's safety-oversight rating to Category 1.

The deal with Delta, announced in July, had been on hold until the US Federal Aviation Administration's international aviation-safety assessment team was satisfied that Jamaica's civil-aviation oversight was fully compliant with international standards.

Air Jamaica hopes to have the Delta marketing agreement in place by mid-January 1998. The deal is expected to boost the Jamaican carrier's Montego Bay hub, which was inaugurated in July. Air Jamaica is also beginning "serious route planning" now that it is free to add frequencies and gateways to its US services.

The Cat 2 safety-oversight rating imposed on Jamaica in 1995 prevented the newly privatised airline from adding routes or upgrading aircraft on its US services. Air Jamaica was forced to wet-lease aircraft to serve some US destinations and operational restrictions resulted in costly delays. The carrier estimates that Cat 2 restrictions cost it over $100 million (Flight International, 9-16 July).

Two Boeing MD-83s acquired by Air Jamaica, but flown initially by crews from Mexican airline Allegro because of the Cat 2 restrictions, will be added to the Jamaican carrier's operating certificate during October.

They will join six Airbus A310s and four A320s, plus two Boeing 727s which Air Jamaica had planned to sell, but has decided to retain and refurbish.

Source: Flight International