By: Vahnu Manikchand
Since the closure of the country’s airports due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) Corporation has lost in excess of $1 billion in revenue.
This was revealed by newly appointed Minister within the Public Works Ministry, Deodat Indar, during an interview with Inews on Thursday.
The airports were closed on March 18, days after Guyana recorded its first case of the novel coronavirus on March 11 following the death of 52-year-old Ratna Baboolall, who had recently returned from New York.
According to Minister Indar, the facility, located at Timehri, East Bank Demerara, has since been losing approximately $200 million every month.
“The report from the airport is that they’re losing 95 per cent of their revenue on a monthly basis — which is $200M per month — because of the closure,” he said following a meeting with heads of the various agencies under the Ministry, including the CJIA.
When contacted, Chief Executive Officer of the CJIA, Ramesh Ghir, confirmed that the airport has lost just over $1 billion in revenues thus far this year.
This, he noted, can be attributed to income generated from both passenger movement and airport operation.
“Income earned by the airport is directly related to passenger travel, thus all stakeholders would have also suffered losses during this period,” he stated.
Ghir explained that operations for the first three months of the year were good, but during the period April to July 2020, passenger traffic declined by 228,936 persons, or 95 per cent of passenger traffic when compared to the same period in 2019.
“It is prudent to note that the passenger and aircraft movements for the first seven months of 2020 were the lowest recorded in the last two decades (since 2001),” the CJIA boss has said.
Figures representing aircraft seats occupied between January and July 2020, when compared with the same period in 2019, revealed that the number of available aircraft seats was 229,126, or 132 per cent less than the 532,602 available in 2019. This year, international aircraft landing has also declined by 137 per cent, from 2,380 to 1,005.
Regarding the movement of cargo, while the airport is closed to passenger movements, cargo operations continued, albeit in a limited manner.
For cargo imports, there was a 19 per cent reduction: from 3,101,936 kilograms to 2,501,345 kilograms.
Meanwhile, cargo exports have declined by 22 per cent: from 1,652,028 kilograms to 1,294,391 kilograms.
The CJIA Head explained that while the overall exports at the airport show just over 20 per cent decline, a look at exports in specific sectors paint a far grimmer picture.
For example, Ghir pointed to exports for agricultural products, which account for nearly 90 per cent of the airport’s exports. This sector has experienced a decrease in exports, from 1,499,087 kilograms to 606,889 kilograms, or 147 per cent.
Minister Indar also revealed that the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) is losing revenue due to the closure of the airports, including the CJIA and the Eugene F. Correia International Airport at Ogle, East Coast Demerara.
“Not having flights in Guyana is affecting them as well. In fact, 93 per cent of the Civil Aviation Authority’s monthly revenue is gone; and at the end of August, they will not have any money left in their pockets,” the Junior Public Works Minister said this was related to him by the GCAA.