State-owned airline for Guyana not being considered – Finance Minister

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While it acknowledges the importance of increased international connectivity in Guyana’s economic development, the Government said that a State-owned airline is currently not on the agenda.

This is according to Senior Minister in the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance, Dr Ashni Singh. He pointed to the available examples of failed State airline carriers, including LIAT which almost went out of business last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic and under a mountain of debt.

“On the specific question of establishing a national airline, you’ve seen how countries in the Caribbean and the world, have struggled with various attempts to establish or maintain a State-owned airline. You’ve seen the challenges with LIAT. And the situation with air travellers has been further compounded by COVID, which has dramatically reduced the volume of traffic and has put some airlines literally out of business.”

“So, I would say that the current position of the Government is that we want improved international connectivity. But we don’t currently intend, it’s not currently on the agenda to establish a State-owned airline. But we are pushing aggressively to attract more international airlines to come to Guyana. And we’re actually seeing the results of that already,” Minister Singh said.

The Minister noted that at a time when international airlines are closing operations and cancelling routes, there are airlines actively interested in coming to Guyana. He also referenced the recent approval granted to InterCaribbean Airways, which is based in Turks and Caicos. Additionally, Dr Singh noted that there are increased connections to Suriname coming out of the Ogle Airport – a reference to FlyAllways.

“You have American Airlines, notwithstanding the international challenges with travel as a result of COVID-19, American Airlines has resumed their Miami to Georgetown route. They were actively considering a New York to Georgetown route.”

“As you know, JetBlue has introduced its New York to Georgetown service. They’re currently providing that service. Virgin Atlantic has expressed an interest in coming to Guyana and we are actively talking with them right now, on them perhaps introducing a London to Georgetown service. We recently approved an airline with a Turks and Caicos to Georgetown service.”

The Finance Minister went on to note, however, that the Government is open to facilitating private investors who want to establish such an airline operating out of Guyana. And this also applies to other ventures, such as shipping companies.

“If there are private investors who see that it is viable to introduce an airline, whether it is by way of leasing an aircraft, and setting up services from Guyana to any destination, we would welcome such a service. We actively encourage it,” Minister Singh said.

“The same applies to shipping. We’re currently not considering the introduction of a State-owned shipping line, but we would welcome private investors who believe there is the volume of traffic and they want to introduce, want to buy or lease a boat and introduce the service… they would be more than welcome in Guyana.”

A number of commercial carriers have already reintroduced flights to and from Guyana since the Government moved to reopen the ports. One such airline was American Airlines, which restarted late last year.

Eastern Airlines also introduced four flights weekly from Miami and New York, while 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.

CAL said flights would be operated each Monday and Friday, with connections available from Trinidad and Barbados. CAL also reintroduced its commercial service between Guyana and New York, which took effect on October 19 following the reopening of the country’s international ports in September.

JetBlue also launched its commercial flight between New York and Guyana in December of 2020. The airline announced that flights would initially be operated up to four times weekly, with seats available for purchase starting on October 27.

JetBlue had originally announced the new route between New York City and Georgetown in September 2019, but temporarily paused the sale of seats and adjusted the launch schedule in response to changes in global travel demand.

Local authorities had closed the country’s borders – including the two main international airports – since March 2020, after the first imported case of COVID-19 was detected. From then to August, the CJIA recorded losses of over one billion dollars due to the pandemic.