National airline still on the cards

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Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo speaking on Government’s plans to transform Guyana’s airline industry

By Svetlana Marshall in New York

THE APNU+AFC government is looking to partner with a private airline to assist with reintroduction of a national airline.

US-based Guyanese Shamisa Anthony reading one of the many questions posed by members of the diaspora
US-based Guyanese Shamisa Anthony reading one of the many questions posed by members of the diaspora

Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo made this disclosure in response to a question posed by a member of the diaspora during a recent meeting in Brooklyn, New York.

Shortly after entering office in 2015, the Government, as a matter of policy, took a decision to pursue the re-establishment of a national airline.

“We are looking at a model that would be a partnership model…. We have started the process of soliciting (expressions of) interest from a number of airline companies that would want to partner with us,” he told a large gathering at the Woodbine Hall on Monday.

The Government is aiming to achieve International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Category One status, but this would be realised only if it pursues the establishment of a national airline.

US-based Guyanese in attendance at the Woodbine Hall in Brooklyn, New York
US-based Guyanese in attendance at the Woodbine Hall in Brooklyn, New York

Guyana Airways was the national airline of Guyana from 1939 to 2001. During this period, it operated services to destinations throughout the Caribbean, the U.S. and Canada. It was declared insolvent in 2001.

But even as the Government continues to discuss the possibility of reintroducing a national airline, the Prime Minister said the Government is currently negotiating with a number of airlines — including JET Blue — that are interested in tapping into the local airline industry.

“We have negotiations ongoing with JET Blue and a number of airlines, including a company that I just met, (which) is coming into Guyana next week to, in fact, bring more aircraft to do the Guyana route.”

Anticipating the expansion of the aviation sector, Government is moving ahead with the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) Expansion and Modernisation Project, which was conceived under the former administration.

Originally, the project included extension of the runway from the original 7,500 feet to 10,800 feet to accommodate the Boeing 747-400 aircraft; doubling the aircraft position from four to eight; installing eight passenger boarding bridges, and installing approximately 300 cameras to boost the CCTV system.

However, Government has made some changes to the original plan. Prime Minister Nagamootoo said that, in addition to the CJIA Expansion and Modernisation Project, Government has set aside funding in the 2016 National and Regional Budget for rehabilitation of 39 airstrips in the interior.

“Amerindians and miners going into the interior have had challenges because they don’t have proper airstrips and aerodromes; so we have set aside money this year to repair some 39 airstrips in the interior,” he posited.

(smarshall@Guyanachronicle.com)