6 new airlines showing interest in Guyana market – GCAA Head

GCAA Head Egbert Field

By: Amar Persaud

While keen on not disclosing any names, Director General of the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) Egbert Field has announced that six new airlines are showing interest in starting operations in the country.

“We’re in discussions with some other entities, some other airlines…we are in the region of maybe five or six airlines,” Field said during an exclusive interview with this publication.

“There is so much uplift predicted out of Guyana and airlines are seeing this so they are approaching the Guyanese administration to see how they can get approval,” he noted.

Earlier this year, reports had indicated that providers such as FlyAllWays, InterCaribbean Airways, One Caribbean Limited, JetAir Caribbean, Skybus Airlines, Sky High Aviation Services and Guyana Rotorcraft Services Inc had expressed interest of operating in Guyana.

So far, Skybus Airlines, InterCaribbean Airways and FlyAllWays have approval to begin operating.

“A number of them have started operations. Skybus, which is a cargo carrier, is operating. InterCaribbean, just a few weeks ago they launched and they should be coming into operation shortly, they haven’t started actual flying but they have the approval,” Field explained.

In light of issues many customers face with airlines in terms of frequent cancellations and delays, the GCAA Head expressed that consumer regulatory bodies should play a greater role in ensuring passengers are treated fairly.

In November, the Ministry of Tourism had released a statement expressing concerns about the number of cancellation and delays of American Airlines flights being throughout the year, noting that 44 per cent of flights were cancelled during this period.

When asked to weigh in on this specific case, the GCAA Head explained that “during the height of the pandemic when flights were reduced, American Airlines decided to cut back on their expenditure, if you’re not getting enough flights with passengers, it means that your revenue base had been seriously damaged, in order to balance their book, they decided to load workers pilots, flight attendants, even the ground staff in order to accommodate the reduce of carriage.”

“Now that we are on the rebound, out of Covid and flights have start to increase, I think American Airlines is finding it hard to really get enough personnel at the rate at which the increase is being done, because bear in mind, before they can even activate a pilot or a flight attendant, they would have to retrain them…also bringing the airplane back online seeing they were for such along a certain amount of maintenance had been to done in order reactivate those aircraft.”

“So, as a result of all these things and trying to keep up with the pace at which the recovery is now on, they are a little behind the curve,” he continued.

The GCAA Boss also commented on the issue of airlines that suddenly pull out of the Guyana market, owing passengers significant sums of monies in refunds in the process.

“There exist bonds, which the airlines have to satisfy that requirement even before we give them their authorisation. The bond is set up with the Ministry [of Public Works] and there are different levels of bonds, the size of the bond is determined by Cabinet we normally would review the documentation, we look at the size of the aircraft, the capacity of the aircraft, the frequency of the aircraft and make a rough suggestion to Cabinet on the size of the bond….the more people you move, the larger will have to be the bond in the event of the operator goes under,” he explained.

A number of commercial carriers have already reintroduced flights to and from Guyana since the Government moved to reopen the ports. One such airline is American Airlines, which restarted operations late last year. COPA Airlines started three flights weekly from Panama, and Caribbean Airlines Limited (CAL) also started flying between CJIA and the Lester B Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Canada.

JetBlue also launched its commercial flight between New York and Guyana in December of 2020. In May, InterCaribbean Airways Limited, based in the Turks and Caicos Islands, and FlyAllways received Cabinet approval to operate locally. FlyAllways, which is Suriname owned, was also granted approval to operate in Guyana.