Sep 20, 2013 News
After months of complaints, the light at the end of the tunnel seems to be getting brighter for Guyanese air travel passengers who have been grappling with alarmingly high fares.
TravelSpan Incorporated is set to begin direct flights between New York and Guyana starting December 14th, officials of the company confirmed Wednesday evening, hours after meeting with Transport Minister, Robeson Benn, and Tourism Minister, Irfaan Ali.
TravelSpan also plans to introduce a scheduled service before the first half of next year.
This latest development in the aviation sector would spell positive news for Guyanese who have been faced with high air fares reaching almost US$1,600 per return trip from the US, using the lone carrier, Caribbean Airlines (CAL).
Later this month, new carrier, Fly Jamaica, partially owned by Guyanese pilot, Ronald Reece, is also set to make its first landing in Guyana, to take up flight to New York as well.
CAL has been under fire from Guyanese and the Government for the fares with the Tourism Ministry summoning principals of that Trinidadian-owned airline to Guyana to explain the situation. CAL was granted flag-carrier status by the Guyana government earlier this year with the hopes that stability to the sector and fares would be positively affected.
President of TravelSpan, Nohar Singh, and Rob Binns, a board member, disclosed that Government has no objections in granting the necessary clearance for flights to start December.
Already, the US Department of Transport, which regulates air travel in that country, has given its green light.
Singh said that technical information has been submitted by his company and in the coming days, a business plan will be submitted to the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA).
Government would, of course, be demanding as is required by regulations, that TravelSpan lodge US$200,000 ($40M) in cash in case of problems. The okay from the GCAA could come in as little as three weeks, it was disclosed.
TravelSpan is no stranger to Guyana offering charter flights before halting operations back in 2008. Singh blamed price gouging as the main reason. TravelSpan, he insisted during a media press conference at the Princess Hotel Wednesday evening, never left Guyana but continued its travel agency business before deciding to return.
TravelSpan has now hired Binns, a long time US airline executive who at the helm of North American Airlines is no stranger to the Guyana market. The company has a major travel agency operation in Trinidad and the US and offers, through another sister company, tour packages to a number of Caribbean destinations including the Dominican Republic.
According to Singh, his company is funding the charter from his own group of companies which has been in the air travel business for 18 years and which has moved 100,000 passengers annually.
Already, TravelSpan has signed contracts with Vision Airlines, a Las Vegas plane company to conduct the charters using a wide-body Boeing 767 plane. Both Singh and Binns assured that Vision has backup planes in case of problems.
While initially flights would be conducted on Thursdays and Saturdays, it is the intention to increase this during the Christmas week and during peak times of Mashramani and Easter.
Ticket prices could be as low as US$300 for a one way ticket between the New York/Georgetown route, reaching up to US$450.
Singh noted that TravelSpan is wary of the business model used by operators, EZjet and Red Jet, in which ticket prices were too low, making it practically impossible to turn a profit.
The Guyanese also disclosed that he was fully aware that CAL’s fuel subsidy by its owner, the Trinidad government, over the years, had impacted negatively on other operators. This issue was raised during the meeting with the two Ministers.
TravelSpan will also be using the Vision airplane to conduct two flights weekly to Trinidad from New York.
Both Redjet and EZjet folded in 2012 while Delta pulled out earlier this year leaving CAL to the coveted New York route. Delta and other US airlines have moved to block CAL’s application to fly direct between Guyana and New York. Currently, CAL has to route its flights from Guyana, through Trinidad.
The Boeing 767 will offer 214 economy and 18 business class seats.
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