GEORGETOWN, Guyana — Air Canada, Delta and JetBlue are still interested in the Guyana market and the government has been engaging them in ongoing discussions to add Georgetown(GEO) to their route map, especially that Guyana will finally complete the expansion and modernization of the Cheddi Jagan Airport (CJIA) this year. The government is keen to have at least two big-name airlines land at the new airport before the end of 2018 to commemorate the opening.
One of the biggest concerns these airlines have had with Guyana in the past has been the high cost of jet fuel. Jet fuel at the CJIA was one of the most expensive in the region but has been reduced since the government broke the oil monopoly at CJIA. It has been confirmed by two airlines operating out of CJIA that the cost of jet fuel at the airport has been reduced.
While Guyana has been mostly an ethnic market, with few business travellers, this will change because business travel to Guyana is expected to triple by 2020 with the growth of the oil and gas sector. This will inevitably grow the aviation industry and will contribute additional revenue to these airlines. Business travellers are an important factor that airlines look at in choosing destinations.
There will be more business travellers connecting via New York, Miami, Toronto and Panama City to Guyana and if they offer a good product, it will eat into the Caribbean Airlines (CAL) market. CAL’s business class service is very “poor”, remarked several diplomats who often travel the NYC, Georgetown and Paramaribo route.
Meanwhile, many Guyanese are already using JetBlue and Air Canada/Rouge service to Barbados and Port of Spain to get to Guyana. They fly via those cities and connect with CAL or LIAT to be certain that they will get to their destinations without cancellations and delays they have often faced from ‘fly by night airlines’.
ravellers to Suriname also used the Delta/GEO service and travel by land to Paramaribo when the airline flew to GEO.
These airlines are looking to fly to GEO two to three times weekly. Air Canada’s Rouge, its budget subsidiary, recently commenced service to Port of Spain.
uyana and Canada have a new bilateral air agreement and over a decade ago there were unconfirmed reports that Air Canada would fly to Guyana.
Since the foreign minister of Guyana, Carl Greenidge, held talks with JetBlue officials two years ago, the government hasn’t made any public statements on the subject. Two statements were issued in 2017 that North American and regional airlines were in negotiations to enter the Guyana market.
“JetBlue has indicated its interest in providing service to Guyana and I have indicated to the airline that Guyana is ready to welcome them,” Greenidge said after discussions with JetBlue’s vice president for network planning, Dave Clark, in September 2015.
“There are some specific issues such as fuel costs in Guyana and others that have to be addressed, but I would say they now have a clear indication that they are welcome and we are prepared to examine and seek to resolve the issues about which they have concerns,” he noted at the time.
The government and civil aviation authority in Guyana have been muted in giving any idea about ongoing negotiations with airlines. There are talks of incentives, fuel, security and drug smuggling issues.
A new concept airline, Guyana Airways 2018 based at CJIA, plans to commence services to Cuba, New York, Miami, Toronto and Brazil. They are looking to forge cooperation agreements with other airlines to survive.
While Guyana has signed many air agreements with various countries — the latest being Singapore — it hasn’t resulted in lower airfares, improved connectivity or attracted foreign carriers. This is because the country is in violation of FAA and ICAO rules (CAT2) and as a result, Guyana based carriers can’t fly to the US or enter into code-share agreement with US based airlines.
With all these agreements with Qatar, the UAE, Turkey, Panama or Singapore, there is still no direct connection with luggage checked through to final destinations from Guyana to Dubai, Istanbul, Beijing, New Delhi, Nairobi or Buenos Aires via Panama City using Copa, the only international airline that serve Guyana. This will require that Guyana concludes agreements with many other countries in order to offer passengers seamless travel from GEO to these destinations.