(Nationnews) A Bajan will be large and in charge when the first ever direct flight from Panama touches down at Grantley Adams International Airport today.
And another will take the reins when the Copa Airlines 737 jet returns to the Central American country later in the afternoon.
The man given the historic honour will be 42-year-old Captain Marc Anthony Holford, the son of former Barbados and West Indies all-rounder David Holford and his wife Marva.
Captain Holford will be accompanied on the fully booked flight, with 94 passengers, by Captain Chetwyn Clarke, a former Barbados national swimmer, who in turn will fly the plane back to Panama.
This was confirmed yesterday evening by Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Kerrie Symmonds, who is leading the Barbados delegation on the trip.
He was speaking at the Panama Hilton in Panama City, where he, along with Permanent Secretary Donna Cadogan, Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI) chief executive officer William “Billy” Griffith, and Corey Garrett, the BTMI’s director for the Caribbean and Latin America, were engaged in further talks with Copa Airlines officials.
Yesterday evening, Marva was beaming with pride that her only child was on the cusp of history. She too will experience another first.
She has been given the honour by the BTMI of being to flown to Panama, to be returned home by her son, who has flown for LIAT, RedJet and Caribbean Airways before takings his wings to Copa for the past four years, primarily on the South American route.
“I’ve never flown with my son; it’s the first time I will have that privilege,” she said on the eve of a brief tour of the Panama Canal yesterday. “My husband did when he (Marc) was with LIAT . . . . I’m excited of course. This is a dream come true for him. Lucky for him he’s doing the things he wanted to do.
“We are really proud and feeling good about it. We have friends at home who are really excited about it,” the modest Marva said, her face all aglow.
She has Panamanian connections, as her grandfather was one of the thousands who left these shores in to work on the canal. She is also hoping that the new venture takes off.
Symmonds said he too was extremely proud of both Holford and Clarke.
“It is something we should feel proud about that once again, these guys have been able to come to the fore and do Barbados proud, both in the inaugural flight and in the first flight back out to Panama.”
This new air link will cross another bridge in the more than 100-year connection between Barbados and Panama that began with the migration of close to 60 000 Barbadians to work on one of the wonders of the world from 1094 to its completion in 1914.
The Copa Airline deal will involve, in the first instance, two trips a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays. Previously, those wishing to visit Panama would go through Trinidad and Tobago, or Miami, United States.
Symmonds, who will be part of a press conference and ribbon-cutting ceremony with officials this morning at Panama’s Tocumen International Airport before take-off, said the Copa arrangement was already bearing fruit for Barbados.
“The load factor this month alone is in excess of 90 per cent, and expected to remain in that vein in the next two month both ways,” he said, adding expansion plans were on the cards in the near future. (BW)