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.
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.
“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.
TIMEHRI - “We are all about providing quality service, untimed performance and excellent prices,” stated David Gooberdhan, a top Travelspan official shortly after the Boeing 767 landed at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) on December 14, 2013.
With 229 persons on board – including 180 passengers and 10 crew members - the airline joins Venezuelan CONVIASA as the two newest airlines to ply the Guyana route.
This, according to Minister of Public Works and Transport Hon. Robeson Benn, augurs well for the aviation sector.
“We are making inroads hence the need for a new terminal building. With all the airlines I envision that will be touching down at CJIA - the passenger flow will be boosted significantly,” Minister Benn stated.
Meanwhile, the airport’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Ramesh Ghir expressed his appreciation to the airline’s officials for their confidence in returning to Guyana.
The 18 year-old company, with head office based in the United States of America, had halted charted flights in 2008.
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