Jul 10, 2013 News
Parliament’s largest Opposition, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), has asked Government to reduce travel tax in light of high ticket prices.
In a letter to Transport Minister Robeson Benn, APNU’s Shadow Minister of Transport, Joseph Harmon, asked the Government to seriously consider dropping the travel voucher tax to 10%.
“Having regard to the recent steep increase in the cost of airline tickets for travel to and from Guyana and the claim by Airlines that the increased fares are unavoidable; I wish to strongly recommend that the government travel voucher tax of 15% which is a component of the ticket cost, be reduced by 10 % to help cushion the impact on the Guyanese travelling public,” Harmon said yesterday in the letter to Minister Benn.
The Member of Parliament asked the Government to move “swiftly” on the issue. The letter was copied to Tourism Minister, Irfaan Ali.
With only Caribbean Airlines Limited (CAL) operating the busy Georgetown/New York route, there have been increasing complaints by passengers of unusually high prices being paid for tickets, in recent times.
A return ticket, economy class for a two-week trip in early August, is around US$1,065. Business class could fetch a US$1,600 price tag around the same period on CAL. For a trip to Trinidad and Tobago, the return fare for August if booked early will be around US$297. Last year fares to Trinidad went as low as US$100 while New York was around US$500.
Last month, CAL came under fire from Government after it was reported that passengers were being charged up to US$1,400 for a return ticket to New York. However, the airline said those tickets were for business class passengers, not economy.
”The airline industry, like all others, is demand-driven and in the peak travel seasons, it is natural that many passengers book as early as possible and thus the lower fares are quickly absorbed, leaving the higher fare seats available for later booking passengers,” CAL said in a statement to this newspaper.
Government badly wants additional airlines to boost the New York route. For CAL, a Trinidad-owned and operated airline, the Georgetown route is one of its busiest.
Earlier this year, to encourage direct flights, the Guyana Government granted CAL flag carrier status allowing direct flights to New York’s JFK Airport. However, passengers were still being taken to Trinidad, with the Government acknowledging that it was unhappy with this. The in-transit flight, they said, is not part of the arrangement with CAL which has not officially answered complaints about this.
Guyana has been facing airline seating problems on the popular Georgetown/New York route after RedJet and EZjet stopped flying last year. US-based Delta Airlines pulled out earlier this year, saying it was not financially sustainable, a claim that has been debunked by government. CAL has been providing a service to Guyana for decades.
With the upcoming August peak season, the desperation has taken on new dimensions for Guyana as complaints grow.
Recently, Government announced that Fly Guyana, a new airline, will start daily flights to New York in October. Guyana is also talking to COPA Airlines, a Panamanian-owned company, to begin operations in Guyana.
Fly Jamaica, another airline, co-owned by Guyanese pilot Ronald Reece, is also expected to start operations in Guyana by the end of July, and will be transporting passengers to New York, Canada and Caribbean countries.
Suriname Airways has also signaled its intentions to fly the New York route.
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