As one of the Caribbean’s most visited islands as well as a regional transport hub, Jamaica is well served by direct flights from North America, the UK and other parts of Europe. Most visitors buy packages that include flight, accommodation and airport transfers, but there are plenty of good flight-only deals available. The majority of airlines fly into Montego Bay, and some also land at Kingston – more convenient if you’re heading for Port Antonio or the Blue Mountains.
Airfares always depend on the season, with the highest prices around December to mid-January, when the weather is best, and during the summer school holidays (July to early Sept). Fares drop during the “shoulder” seasons – November and mid-January to April (excluding Easter) – and you’ll get the best prices during the low season: May, June and mid-September to November.
From the UK, Air Jamaica, British Airways and Virgin have direct flights to Montego Bay and Kingston from London Gatwick (9hr). Average high/low season scheduled fares are £950/750, though special deals can bring fares down to the £450 mark. Your best bet for deals with these airlines are Caribbean specialist agents such as Newmont Travel, who often have cheaper fares than those offered by the airlines themselves.
Booking a charter flight can cut costs, with an average fare of around £500 and occasional deals for as low as £300; charter airlines’ flight and accommodation packages also represent great savings. Charter operators currently offering flights to Montego Bay are First Choice, from Gatwick, Birmingham and Manchester; Thomas Cook from Gatwick and Manchester; and Thomson from Gatwick.
As there are no direct flights to Jamaica from Ireland, the easiest way to get to Jamaica is to travel to the UK and take a direct flight from there.
The popularity of all-inclusive package holidays means that the majority of visitors fly to Jamaica with a charter airline. However, there are also plenty of daily direct flights from many parts of the US, though Canada is not as well served.
Flying time from the US varies enormously. The flight from Miami to Montego Bay only takes 1 hour 25 minutes, making the city the main US departure point to Jamaica, while from New York, flying time is 3 hours 20 minutes. Caribbean Airlines (carribbean-airlines.com) – which took over Air Jamaica in 2010 and now acts as the country’s national airline – has an extensive timetable of direct flights, with services to Montego Bay and Kingston from Fort Lauderdale (1hr 43min), Orlando (2hr), New York (3hr 20min) and Toronto (4hr). Their high- and low-season fares to Montego Bay average US$600/300 (plus taxes) and there are often especially good special deals available during the summer months.
In addition, a number of budget carriers offer very competitive fares. No-frills round-trip flights from Fort Lauderdale to Montego Bay and Kingston with Spirit (spirit.com) start from as little as US$99 plus taxes. Jet Blue (jetblue.com) fly from New York to Montego Bay and Kingston from $230 plus taxes, with connections from numerous US cities including LA, Phoenix and Chicago. A number of other US airlines also fly direct to Jamaica: American Airlines (aa.com) from Miami to Kingston; United (united.com) from Houston and New York to Montego Bay and Kingston; Delta (delta.com) from Atlanta and New York to Kingston, and from Atlanta, New York, Memphis, Detroit, Washington, Minneapolis and LA to Montego Bay; and US Airways (usairways.com) from Boston, Charlotte and Philadelphia to Montego Bay.
From Canada, WestJet (westjet.com) and Air Canada (aircanaada.com) have direct flights from Toronto to Kingston and Montego Bay (both around 4hr); high/low season fares average Can$900/500. Travelling from other parts of Canada, you’ll have to fly first to either Toronto or to a regional hub in the US before taking a connecting flight to Jamaica.
There are no direct flights from Australia or New Zealand to Jamaica; the best option is to fly to the US, the UK or Europe (Italy or the Netherlands) and pick up an onward connection. The least expensive and most straightforward route is via Los Angeles. Expect to pay around NZ$1820 from Auckland and Aus$1920 from Sydney to reach Jamaica, with an average flying time of around 44 hours.
Caribbean Airlines US 1 800 920 4225, caribbean-airlines.com. All-inclusive or package holidays. Offers occasional good specials.
Caribbean Destinations Australia 03 9813 5258 or t1800 354 104, caribbeanislands.com.au. Themed holidays to Jamaica and the Caribbean, based around everything from cricket to festivals.
Caribbean Journey US 1 866 236 1924, caribbeanjourney.com. Caribbean specialists offering all-in packages, weddings and holidays.
Caribtours UK 020 7751 0660, caribtours.co.uk. Long-established, fairly upmarket company offering all types of trips and plenty of personalized advice.
Dragonfly Expeditions US 1 888 9 WANDER, dragonflyexpeditions.com. A well-run, energetic company featuring interesting holidays in western Jamaica with an eco-tourism slant.
First Choice UK 0870 850 3999, flights.firstchoice.co.uk. Cheap charter flights and package holidays.
Newmont Travel UK 020 8920 1155, newmont.co.uk. Caribbean flight specialist that’s been around for years and offers some excellent deals; worth trying before any others.
North South Travel UK 01245 608 291, northsouthtravel.co.uk. Friendly, competitive travel agency, offering discounted fares worldwide. Profits are used to support projects in the developing world, especially the promotion of sustainable tourism.
Sackville Travel UK 0207 326 7676, sackvilletravel.com. Caribbean specialists offering cheap charter and scheduled fares.
See Jamaica Cheaply Jamaica 1 888 254 0637, 210 507 5997, seejamaicacheaply.com. Jamaica-based agent representing an excellent selection of hotels and guesthouses islandwide.
Sunbird Tours UK 01767 262522, sunbirdtours.co.uk. Birdwatching specialists offering eight-day trips to Jamaica covering all the top spots.
Thomas Cook UK 0844 879 8442, thomascook.com. Inexpensive flight and accommodation packages, with hotels in all the big resorts, and flight-only deals too.
Thomson UK 0203 451 2688, www.tui.co.uk. No-frills budget flights and package deals.
Wings Birding Tours US 1 866 547 9868, wingsbirds.com. Specialists in birding holidays, offering eight-day trips to Jamaica.