Guyana’s poor aviation safety standards affecting airlift – opinion

Guyana’s poor aviation safety standards affecting airlift

 Guyana lost its Category 1 status with the demise of Guyana Airways in 2001
GEORGETOWN, Guyana — Guyana has failed in the past two decades to comply with the International Civil Aviation (ICAO) safety requirements, and for this reason the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) has been rated by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as a Category 2.

As a result, only US-based airlines can fly nonstop between Guyana and the United States, so with the demise of Dynamic Airways two weeks ago, which provided non-stop service between Georgetown and New York City, airlift between these two cities is at an all time low.

The US government has refused to permit any new service from Georgetown after the FAA in 2002 downgraded Guyana’s safety ranking to a “category 2” status, meaning the country’s aviation did not meet international standards as spelled out by the ICAO. Thus, airlines based in Guyana cannot begin new services or even add frequencies on existing routes to the US.

Category 2 is retarding the development of the local aviation industry and especially as it relates to the Guyana/US market. For example, it’s an impediment to attract carriers and enter into code-share agreements. Since the demise of Guyana Airways in 2001, Guyana lost its Category 1 status.

In tackling the CAT 1 issue, Tomas Chlumecky, an aviation expert, heaped great praise on the new director of the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), Colonel Egbert Field, who came back from Jamaica.

Chlumecky said, “He is good, and he is tackling the CAT 1 issue and the high accident rate in Guyana.”

Chlumecky said he thinks that “it is time for a Guyana-based airline with two B737-800s or A320s to fly the NYC, Toronto, and Miami routes.”

However, he urged that “GCAA and the government to work together and fast, for a 2018 start, and an outsider should prepare a feasibility study, an unbiased and realistic assessment of where the airline should fly, and its fleet size.”

With the collapse of Dynamic Airways, airfares between Guyana and New York City is back up at US$900 round trip on Caribbean Airlines (CAL), which is the only schedule carrier providing such service. However, Caribbean and Fly Jamaica can’t provide non-stop services between Georgetown and New York City. As a result, CAL’s non-stop flight from Guyana to New York City originates in Port of Spain, Trinidad.

And Surinam Airways (SLM) flights from Georgetown to Miami originate in Paramaribo. Guyana has granted SLM fifth freedom rights to ply the GEO/MIA route. SLM is seeking the same rights to ply the GEO/JFK route now that it has incorporated the Boeing 737-700 into its fleet.

Guyana doesn’t have a national carrier, and US-based airlines have objected to non-Guyana based carriers’ applications to provide non- stop services between Georgetown and New York City. At the same time, US airlines are not interested in serving the Guyana market.

Surinam Airways (SLM), which plans to fly to NYC from Georgetown, is facing setbacks because of this issue. They can fly to NYC via Guyana but flights must originate from their base, Paramaribo, which is rated by DOT as a category 1 airport.

Efforts to attract Delta, United or JetBlue to the Guyana market haven’t materialized. Guyana is only attracting fly by night carriers that have left Guyanese stranded in Miami, New York and Toronto. The ministry of transportation in Guyana said two weeks ago that legacy and budget carriers from North America are in negotiation with the government to enter the market. Air Canada and Jetblue are also still interested in the Guyana market.

JetBlue corporate communications said, “We are always looking to expand and fly to the places people want to go, however we have no decisions regarding Guyana to announce at this time.”

CAL, which controls over 70% of the Guyana market, will use its monopoly to raise airfares to Guyana. At one time, the Georgetown/Port of Spain bridge was US$450 round trip. Right now a roundtrip ticket from Georgetown to Dubai is over US$2,000; London $1,500; NYC $900; Panama City $500; Bogotá $900; Paramaribo $400; Barbados $400 and Rio $1,400.

Considering that Guyana will emerge soon as one of the top oil producers in Latin America and the Caribbean, its aviation industry is booming right now, and a new modern and expanded terminal and runway will be commissioned by January 2018. However, there are no airlines servicing Guyana with code-share agreements to bring these fares down through seamless global connectivity to some of these important capitals.

The expansion of Fly Jamaica and its sister company, Air Guyana, which will soon begin service from Guyana to Toronto via Havana, won’t solve the Guyana airlift shortage.

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