Guyana aviation sector improves – Hoping to attract major airlines

Guyana closer to Category 1 status, as aviation sector improves

By Ray Chickrie – Caribbean News Now – December 29, 2017

CJIA Arrivals Entrance

GEORGETOWN, Guyana — Guyana over the past year has seen a dramatic growth in its aviation sector, especially in areas of safety and building institutions to oversee implementation and evaluation. The US$150 million project to expand the runway and modernization of the terminal at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) will be completed by late-2018.

For these reasons, the country is close to achieving Category 1 status, which means that Guyana-based carriers and others in the region can fly non-stop from Georgetown to any point in the United States, the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) said recently. However, the country is still finding it hard to attract legacy airlines from North America and Europe.     

Air traffic continues to increase and the country is better able to monitor its airspace. It has acquired air navigation and communication equipment and infrastructure has been upgraded at the Timehri and Ogle control towers to ensure that adequate air navigation services are provided to the industry, GCAA said.

Guyana was recognized for the dramatic improvement after a recent ICAO Coordinated Validation Mission (ICVM) audit. Guyana moved from 44.24 percent to 64.66 percent effective implementation of ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs). That figure is expected to increase when the next audit is completed and GCAA expects Guyana to regain its Category 1 status.

“The award signifies that Guyana is closer to implementing ICAO’s SARPs, as well as achieving the United States Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Category One status. The attainment of Category One status would mean that air operators from Guyana can once again initiate service to the United States, and take part in reciprocal code-sharing arrangements with US carriers,” GCAA said.

Currently, because of the lack of the Category 1 classification, all flights have to go through another country, which is why Guyana cannot designate a national carrier or solicit a foreign airline to make CJIA its hub and ply GEO/NYC/MIA routes. However, if Category 1 status is achieved soon, the Guyana aviation sector could become more attractive to investors.

Security at the airport and many drug trafficking rings and their elements in the government, the police and the armed forces are being rooted out. There seems to be less cocaine getting onto planes to North America from monitoring media reports. Yet with all these improvements, the government is finding it difficult to bring legacy airlines to Guyana.

However, with the expansion and upgrade of the Cheddi Jagan Airport before the end of 2018, and with the country’s future oil boom, it’s only a matter of time before some big names enter the Guyana airspace.

Yet the government has touted the idea of making CJIA a hub; however, there is no indication of any plans to base an airline in Guyana to create a hub. And again, not having Category 1 status makes the reality of CJIA becoming a hub more farfetched. This is the only way that a hub can be built, Tomas Chlumecky, an aviation expert very familiar with Guyana, said.

At least a few planes need to be stationed at CJIA for this to happen, he said. Also, there are no applications or negotiation with any major airline from North America in any serious stage according to an insider affiliated with the aviation industry of Guyana. Air Canada/Rouge, GOL, JetBlue, Delta, Turkish Airlines, Surinam Airways (SLM) and Guyana Airways 2018 are said to be interested in the Guyana market.

There is much talk about Guyana Airways 2018, a new start up airline that will be based in Guyana. The airline and its partner, Fly Jamaica, plan to operate flights to New York, Miami, Toronto, and Havana. Guyana Airways 2018 plans to use the Boeing 757 on the Cuba route and two A340-300s on the North American routes. Yet with so much uncertainty in the aviation industry, the likelihood of Guyana Airways surviving beyond a few years is questionable. They are striving to be named as the official Guyana flag carrier, and are encouraging the government to take a stake in the company. The airline has government support.

However, Guyana needs a national carrier that is dedicated to develop the economic growth of the country by opening the frontiers to settlements, markets and tourists. This is very feasible because EXXONMobil will soon market Guyana oil, and all the money that Guyana will receive should be spent heavily on infrastructure. According to ExxonMobil’s country manager, Rod Henson, Guyana will earn about US$1.5 billion from the Liza 1 well after a period of five years, and by 20 years US$7 billion, and those figures are guaranteed “based on price assumptions”.

The government plans to pump a lot of money into regional airports and airstrips across the country. There is already talk about building a third international airport in the frontier town of Lethem, which borders Brazil. There is no air connectivity between Guyana and Brazil.

In 2017, the newest entrant to the Guyana market was Aruba Airlines, which is linking Georgetown/CJIA to Aruba and Cuba. Yet, there is no direct air connectivity between Guyana, Brazil and Colombia. This is due to long historical and political reasons that isolated the Guianas from Latin America. However, CJIA is looking to make direct connectivity to Bogota, which is now a global hub that connects South America to Africa, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. For this reason, the government of Guyana has been courting Avianca to enter the Guyana market.

However, to date, there is no single, simple air itinerary connecting Guyana directly to Addis Ababa, Dubai, London, Paris, Vienna, Geneva, Istanbul, New Delhi or Beijing. This is because Guyana has yet to conclude necessary agreements with many countries to utilize COPA’s global network and partners. For example, to utilize the COPA/Turkish Airlines alliance to open Guyana to the global market, many agreements have to be concluded.

Nevertheless, once Guyana is connected with Havana, this becomes another new hub, already connected to Istanbul, Addis Ababa, Beijing, London, Paris, Rome, Moscow and Madrid. Caribbean Airlines (CAL), which dominates the Guyana market, will begin Havana flights from January 2018; however, fares are exorbitant. Then there is the question as to how long the Cuba flights will last. CAL has no agreements with any airlines flying from Havana to other cities. CAL refused to cooperate and sign a code sharing agreement with SLM.

The situation requires more synergy between stakeholders such the foreign ministry, the tourism board, airlines, experts, the private sector and diplomatic mission around the world. Guyana should now be talking to countries like Ethiopia and Turkey about how to develop its aviation industry.

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  • Deen  On 12/30/2017 at 11:22 am

    Interesting and informative article. Guyana is in dire need of better and reliable airlines services.
    So many visitors, especially foreign based Guyanese, have suffered great inconvenience over the years.

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