TravelSpan commits to CJIA as airline hub

22nd July, 2014

KINGSTON - Since the introduction of several new airlines to the Guyanese market, there has been talk about the country becoming a hub that will connect passengers from around the world as they arrive at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport(CJIA),Timehri.

But not many have taken the talk further as was TravelSpan which recently applied to the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) for permission to operate a scheduled service, moving away from the charger service it is licenced to provide. Officials at the airline told Guyana Times that the move to acquire such a licence basically indicates that TravelSpan is here for the long haul. “A charger service is basically to operate seasonal, but with this Scheduled Licence we have applied for is indicating that we are here for the long haul,” the airline official said.

Contacted on the issue GCAA acting Director General Ankar Doobay told Guyana Times on Friday that the airline has indeed submitted the application and it is presently being looked at. He said he was certain that the request will be granted once all the documentations and infrastructure are in order.

Most international airports serve as hubs, or places where non-direct flights may land and passengers switch planes. International airports often have many airlines represented, and many of these are often foreign. Passengers connecting to domestic flights from an international flight generally must take their checked luggage through Customs and re-check their luggage at the domestic airline counter, requiring extra-time in the process. In some cases in Europe, luggage can be transferred to the final destination even if it is a domestic connection.

In some cases, travellers and the aircraft can clear Customs and Immigration at the departure airport. One example of this is the pre-clearance facilities airports in Canada have at the US border. This allows flights from those airports to fly into US airports that do not have Customs and Immigration facilities. Luggage from such flights can also be transferred to a final destination in the US through the airport of entry.

Expansion Project

Observers believe that this should ultimately be the goal of the authorities here with the multibillion-dollar airport expansion project.

“It makes no sense you invest so much into expanding the facilities at CJIA and we only have flights dropping off and picking up people. We must be able to have connections and operate truly as a hub,” a top local aviator said.

TravelSpan Chief Executive Officer Nohar Singh explained that in order for Guyana to be a hub, the airport expansion is a necessity, noting that hundreds of passengers will be passing through the airport and there must be modernised facilities to cater for this development.

He added that they would not have been in discussion about hub operation, if they were not sure the Government is committed to the expansion project.

“The airport expansion project is absolutely necessary in a hub operation,” he reiterated.

Only last week, leading agencies in the aviation industry called for the speedy completion of the US$155 million expansion project.

During a high-profile meeting with Public Works Minister Robeson Benn last Thursday, key stakeholders within the aviation sector reaffirmed their commitment to the expansion of the industry, but said the airport must be expanded to mitigate the challenges currently faced.

“We recognise that the expansion project is the appropriate response to the dire safety, security and efficiency challenges faced at the existing facility and pledge to fully lend our support and expertise to advance the progress of the multimillion-dollar national endeavour,” the stakeholders said in a joint statement issued on Wednesday.

It was explained that the existing runway creates many limitations in safety due to the absence of the Runway Extension Safety Area (RESA) and its inability to accommodate larger wide-body aircraft such as the Boeing 747 and 777 aircraft. The congested terminal and parking space constraints for aircraft were among other issues laid on the table when the meeting was convened. The airlines said that insufficient parking space for aircraft adversely affects their on-time performance.

Meanwhile, TravelSpan Board member Rob Binns said the airline has commenced preparation for the expansion, which will see Guyana becoming a hub in the near future. He said that as talks continue about a “hub”, TravelSpan will increase its presence here by investing in Guyanese. In so doing, they have hired the first batch of Guyanese flight attendants who can relate more to Guyanese passengers travelling from JFK to Georgetown.

Guyanese Hospitality

“Our aim to present that warm Guyanese hospitality onboard our flights and with the flight attendants, we are sure that passengers will relate better with their own.” Binns added that with the hub operation, the idea is to hire Guyanese pilots, Guyanese mechanics and engineers so that their flights can actually be based in Guyana.

Vision Airlines Executive David Ray explained that the hub will see TravelSpan bringing passengers to Guyana who will then board connecting flights. This, he added, would need better infrastructure.

Ray added that this can and will tremendously boost the county’s economy and provide job opportunities. He said at present, bigger aircraft cannot land at the current runway at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri.

Guyanese provided another travel option as COPA’s inaugural flight arrives

13th July, 2014

TIMEHRI - COPA Airline, the flag carrier of Panama, officially made Guyana its 67th destination after it touched down at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), Timehri Friday, July 11, 2014 starting a direct link between Panama and Georgetown, Guyana.

Beginning today, COPA started offering nonstop service, twice weekly between Guyana and COPA’s Hub of the Americas at Tocumen International Airport, Panama with connecting service throughout South Central and North America, and the Caribbean.

This new flight which landed with over 100 passengers will provide Guyanese with non-stop service to Panama’s hub of the Americas and connectivity to more than 66 other destinations flown by Copa Airlines and 1,316 airports in 192 countries.

 The flight will also expand connectivity for Guyanese throughout Central, South and North America and the Caribbean, and provide citizens of both countries with the opportunity to take advantage of each other’s tourism activities and exchange cultures.

Minister of Public Works, Robeson Benn who welcomed the airline, spoke of the excellent service he experienced with COPA, and said he was amazed with the service and ambience that were offered by this large undertaking.

“The fact that COPA had developed that significant hub for this part of the world with respect to air transport, and the fact that they did it, we too can also do it if we stay the course, if we have the energy and willingness to overcome obstacles,” Minister Benn noted during a simple welcoming ceremony at the CJIA lounge.

Minister Benn underscored that with the arrival of the aircraft, Guyana is poised with the right partner to facilitate and further advance integration in Latin and South America, having new visitors and boosting air transport.

The advent of the airline also paves the way for entrepreneurs, manufacturers, tourists and service providers.

 Minister Benn added that this partnership signals opportunities for the two countries to integrate for the development of the countries, and others in the Americas.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO), CJIA, Ramesh Ghir also welcomed the airline and said that he anticipates that it will be in Guyana on a long-term basis.

Regional Sales Manager, COPA, Diego Bermudez, said that this fresh partnership will definitely establish a new relationship with the two countries, expanding opportunities and sharing cultures.

Bermudez promised that the airline will offer Guyanese world class service. “We are happy to be at the start of a new and promising partnership, and we want to assure that we are going to be here for the long haul,” he said.

COPA Airlines and COPA Airlines Colombia are subsidiaries of COPA Holdings which is a leading Latin American provider of passengers and cargo services.

COPA Airline moved over 11 million passengers in 2013, with 360 daily scheduled flights to 30 countries.

CJIA turns the microscope on fish products

27th June, 2014

KINGSTON - Minister Robeson Benn divulged that there has been some deliberations and continues to be deliberations with respect to fish and fish products passing through the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA).

Hon. Benn indicated that there has been no clear directive or deliberations to prohibit any item from passing through the airport except for those which already exist.

With respect to fish and fish products, the minister said that while there is no final word on the arrangement, the initial decision being mooted is for anyone who carries fish to the airport in their luggage or in any other form must declare same to the airport officials and security.

“If you are travelling and you have fish or fish products you must declare that you have it,” Benn said.

Over the years, airport security and officials have noticed that fish is being used as the conductor for the concealing of illegal substances.

Minister Benn said that once the fish is declared, then it triggers a search in keeping with the new security measure soon to be adopted by the CJIA. All fish must be examined the minister said.

Over the last few years, there have been many innovative ways by persons to ship cocaine outside of Guyana, via the Cheddi Jagan International Airport.

Last year the CJIA commissioned a new scanner which has proven to be very effective in detecting illegal substances concealed on persons.

Earlier in the same year, the GRA commissioned another scanner which also has been proving so effective that traditional ways of exporting cocaine through the airport, which were undetectable, are being uncovered. (Guyana Chronicle) 

2.2 kilos of cocaine found on BW 606

23rd May, 2014

TIMEHRI - Two packages of cocaine weighing 2.2 kilogrammes were discovered on a Caribbean Airlines flight destined for Toronto, Canada this afternoon, May 23, 2014 at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport.

The illegal substance was found in the aft hold – the belly of the aircraft - of BW 606, a little after 13:00 hrs.

The aircraft had arrived at 12: 11 hrs from Port of Spain, with an onward connection to Toronto.

After all baggage was offloaded from the aft hold, airline security conducted a sweep of the hold as per Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). During the sweep, the drug was discovered.

Law enforcement officers were informed, and an investigation has commenced into the matter.

CJIA statement

20th May, 2014

TIMEHRI - On Saturday, May 17, 2014 around 3:41 a.m., Sangernette Mason, who was booked on BW 484 for the United States of America, presented herself to the Caribbean Airlines (CAL) Check-in counter at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA).

According to the CAL officials, the passenger was loud, incoherent and refused to answer any questions to facilitate the process. The Supervisor on duty was called in and after assessing the situation decided that the passenger was not fit to travel, since in his opinion she posed a threat to the aircraft and other passengers on the flight.

The decision triggered a violent reaction. Ms. Mason began throwing shoes and other items from a bag she had in one of her luggage.   

One of CJIA’s Aviation Security Officers (ASOs) was summoned and despite her pleadings could not calm the agitated passenger.

The Guyana Police Force was called in and they tried to escort the passenger out of the Check In Area, by this time Ms Mason demeanour changed to one of belligerence.

She ran, positioned herself in front of CAL’s conveyor system – a restricted area where the luggage pass to go on the aircraft - got into a physical altercation with a female officer and threw a garbage bin at the said officer.  

Efforts by several law enforcement officers to pacify the passenger – for nearly an hour - proved futile.

Eventually, she was handcuffed and escorted from the terminal and was subsequently released to the care of a relative. 

CJIA incorporating Spanish into its customer service

8th May, 2014

TIMEHRI - Employees who interact directly with passengers at Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) are being trained in basic Spanish, as part of the CJIA’s mandate to offer the best quality service to its Hispanic visitors.

The two week workshop, which is being facilitated by the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) and held at the airport's Conference Room, began on May 6 and concludes on May 15, 2014.

Customer Service Representatives (CSRs); Taxi Drivers, Red Cap Porters; Customs and Immigration Officers; Airlines counter staff and Aviation Security Officers are participating in the interactive sessions.

According to Dursatty Doodnauth-Mangru, the airport’s Commercial and Administration Manager (CAM), it was imperative that employees are knowledgeable in the foreign language.

“We have to bridge the language barrier, after all we are a customer service Corporation and the passengers are our first priority,” she said during a simple ceremony to kick-start the workshop.

Ms.  Doodnauth-Mangru also posited that “the training could not have come at a better time now that Venezuelan airline, CONVIASA, is already operating in Guyana”. COPA – a Panamanian airline – will begin its operations at the Timehri facility in July 2014.  

Meanwhile, Indranauth Haralsingh, Director of GTA, told participants that the workshop is designed to facilitate Hispanic visitors, as well as, promote Guyana’s tourism and hospitality.

Joint visit confirms renewed squatting on CJIA & state lands

27th April, 2014

TIMEHRI - Several squatter farmers were advised to discontinue farming on Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) and state lands - failure to comply will see action taken to bring to an end this practice. 

This advice was issued during a joint visit on Friday, April 25, 2014 when officials from the CJIA, Guyana Defence Force and the Guyana Police Force toured a section of the lands.

Prior to the ground tour, a flyover was done by CJIA officials to ascertain the extent of the illegal practice.

A particular squatter whose activities are close to compromising army facilities in the area was cautioned to stop. This squatter admitted to not having any lease or permit for the land he is occupying, but promised to stop all operations and undertook to heed the advice he was given. Three other squatters who are operating in the area also promised to comply with the request.   

Meanwhile, follow-up visits will be continuous to ensure that the advice will be adhered to.

Over the past five years, CJIA and the Ministry of Public Works (MPW) have actively engaged squatters and farmers on their illegal occupancy on lands which are crucial for the airport expansion project.

A committee, chaired by Hon. Robeson Benn, the Minister of Public Works, was established in 2013 to review and pursue options for squatter relocation.

Squatting activity has occurred extensively on CJIA lands including the land required for the runway extension now underway

Passengers at CJIA treated to Easter gifts

21st April, 2014

TIMEHRI - Over 200 kites will be distributed to arriving passengers - especially those travelling with children – at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) over the week-end, April 19 and 20, 2014 as part the airport’s promotional drive to celebrate Easter.

The initiative, organized by the airport Commercial Department, has been a yearly feature for over a decade.

“We are customer service oriented and it is fitting gesture to welcome home visitors and Guyanese citizens,” said Dursatty Doodnauth-Mangru, CJIA’s Commercial and Administration Manager (CAM).

She revealed that a number of companies partner with CJIA to promote the country’s festivals/holidays, while simultaneously marketing their products. These include Edward Beharry, Windsor Estate, DDL among others.

“In relation to distilleries serving rum punch and other concoctions, these beverages are only served to adults. That is the policy of CJIA and the beverage companies - one that we will never compromise,” Mrs. Doodnauth-Mangru emphasized. “These gestures are usually well received by travelers who come here for the festive seasons.”

She added, “Guyana is revered for its world class rum and black cake…and periodically CJIA and its sponsors provide them to passengers.”

Samples of soft drinks and fruit juices are also offered to passengers.

Meanwhile, the Manager, on behalf of CJIA’s management, took the opportunity to wish the staff and passengers a “happy and wonderful Easter”. 

Surinam first female Pilot-in-Command makes inaugural flight to CJIA!

14th April, 2014

TIMEHRI - “Girls don’t become pilots, girls become stewardesses.”

Astrid Deira, the first female Surinam Pilot-in-Command to fly a Boeing 737, recalled those were the words said to her by one of her teachers when she signaled her intention to become a pilot at the tender age of eight.

After guiding Surinam Airways (SLM) Flight 421 – her inaugural flight - to the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) on April 12, 2014, Captain Deira lamented to media operatives that through determination and sacrifice her dream was fulfilled. Her passion for soaring the sky can be credited to her father, who worked at SLM.

The local SLM office organized a simple congratulatory ceremony as a nod to her accomplishment.

Captain Deira began working at Surinam Airways 27 years ago as an Administrative staff “doing books.” However, during that period the bilingual pilot was saving money to obtain her pilot license.

“It took me five years to achieve this,” she said smilingly.

After a few years honing her skills in her homeland, Captain Deira turned her sights to larger aircraft such as the Airbus 340 as a co-pilot.   The veteran pilot, who has vowed to do everything to keep the airline going after her retirement, said that her experience so far has been a pleasant one.

“…it was awkward at first as a woman. It is a job which you have to earn and work hard,” the 45 year-old admitted.

During her 22 years in the sky, Captain Deira has flown two of Guyana’s Heads of State, and numerous Suriname’s Government officials. And now she is accorded the opportunity to fly the Suriname/Georgetown/Miami route.

Her advice for young ladies, who want to follow in her footsteps, is “though there will be setbacks, if you really want it, go for it!”

CJIA accommodates over 800 students to view its operations

6th March, 2014

TIMEHRI - During the past five weeks, over 800 students were able to get a glimpse into the fascinating world of aviation and its operations at the country’s main port of entry.

Students, teachers and parents were taken in guided tours of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) during the month of February and March.

The highlight of the tours for the nursery and primary school students was the DC-3 Museum– a fully outfitted 30-seater aircraft.

The DC-3 soared to the skies in December 1953. In all, 16,079 were manufactured with approximately 200 still used in commercial operations in 2009.

Besides that, tours are also given to the Terminal Building which included the Immigration Arrivals; Customs Arrivals; Baggage Conveyor Belts; Check in Hall and the Viewing Gallery.  

The Airport’s Customer Service Representatives (CSRs), Duty Officers (ADOs) and Aviation Security Officers (ASOs) facilitated the informative tours.

According to Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ramesh Ghir, the excursions have been a tradition for the airport for over a decade.

“To see the enthrallment on the faces of the young one is priceless, and we are happy to give them that opportunity to see how we operate,” he said.

Grove Nursery; Success Elementary; Philadelphia Primary, Linden Academy, No. 48 Primary School and Kuru-Kururu Primary Schools were among several to visit the Timehri facility.

From its inception approximately 15,000 students have visited the Timehri facility.