CAL and Trinidad can’t be trusted
The arrival of Surinam Airways (SLM) over the skies of Guyana comes at a critical time when Caribbean Airlines Limited (CAL) is facing major financial troubles and that is compounded with the demise of REDjet Airlines which brought competition to CAL on the Antigua, Barbados and Trinidad routes.
Experts are predicting more financial woes for CAL since its acquisition of Air Jamaica. CAL/Air Jamaica recorded a loss of 96 million dollars last year, and with the recent acquisition of two old Boeing 767-300 to service the London routes, this is expected to increase drastically.
These developments and Guyana’s struggle to attract reputable airlines forced the government of Guyana to seek Paramaribo’s help in bringing back SLM to Georgetown. As well, the government of Guyana has embarked on a 138-million-dollar modernization and expansion of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) which has become congested. Such an investment in infrastructure will pay great dividends in the near future, and the project should not be stalled because of politics.
Moreover, Guyana’s Cheddi Jagan International is a Category 2 airport according to International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA). “The IASA program focuses on a country’s ability to adhere to international standards and recommended practices for aircraft operations and maintenance established by the United Nations’ technical agency for aviation, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).Category 2 indicates a deficiency.”
While in Category 2, no additional services from Guyana to the US can be established. Looking at this, it won’t be easy for Guyana to resurrect a national carrier to service North America. Thus, Guyana has to attract foreign carriers, and the modernization and expansion of CJIA by China Harbour Engineering Co., which has built airports in Macao, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Myanmar, could do just that.
SLM has made it quite clear that plans to connect Guyana to Toronto and New York via non-stop flights, hinge on continued bilateral talks which will lead to some sort of agreement whereby the government of Guyana will offer the Surinamese carrier incentives. SLM’s North American Manager, Mr. Fitz – Jim, “stressed that much of the success of the airline will depend on continued bilateral talks between the governments of Suriname and Guyana” in an interview with the National Communications Network of Guyana (NCN).
SLM may seek commitment that the government of Guyana will not get back into the airline business and eventually seek to compete on the North American routes. Like other carriers such as BA and Virgin Atlantic, which receive financial support from Caribbean countries, SLM no doubt is seeking incentives from the government of Guyana. Surinam Airways could also be seeking flag carrier status.
In the future, if Guyana does resurrect a national airline, they can code-share with SLM on the North American routes. Guyana can’t run an international airline with one aircraft, and code-sharing with SLM in the future could solve this issue. Guyana can revive a national carrier to service its interior, the Caribbean. Naturally, the government of Guyana will seek and should seek an agreement from SLM that will spur Guyana’s economy and provide competitive airfares to travelers. Such an agreement must also allow room for maneuvering if SLM does not live up to its commitment.
In an effort to consolidate bilateral, CARICOM and South to South cooperation, this is a brilliant move between Guyana and Suriname. Guyana is fatigued over Trinidad and Jamaica’s reluctance to open their skies to competition. Georgetown sees the collapse of REDjet mostly to the delaying tactics of Caribbean governments that seek to protect their skies from competition.
CAPA Centre for Aviation asserts, “Now it is back to business as usual in the Caribbean – protectionist governments keeping a tight grip on traffic rights in order to protect their loss-making flag carriers.”
This is why Caribbean Airlines can’t be trusted and should not be granted national status. This display of Caribbean disunity and protectionism pushed Guyana and Suriname to enter into serious bilateral air negotiations.