May 10, 2021

Guyana’s latest oil discovery may boost local aviation sector

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arrivals_cjiaBy Ray Chickrie From Caribbean News Now

GEORGETOWN, Guyana — Guyana is set to grow tremendously in the coming year after a second offshore well confirmed a mega discovery of oil and gas, and the aviation sector, which has been neglected for decades, is now getting a lot of attention from the government.

Just this week, the government advertised for a feasibility study of the impact of the aviation industry on the local economy. The government for decades has struggled to attract world class airlines to Guyana.

A few years ago the Inter-American Development Bank concluded a study on the aviation sector of Guyana that dealt mostly with policy, security, compliance and connectivity. Guyana is poorly connected by air with the wider global community, the report found.

Guyana is among the last of the Guyanas to discovery commercial quantities of oil. A few years ago, French Guiana discovered a major oil field off its coast. Suriname is already an oil producer. These developments may change the region tremendously and aviation will grow, experts predict.

The Guyanas now want to cooperate in developing and marketing their tourism industry and both governments have talked a lot about creating air hubs in their respective countries.

There is discussion about bringing back Guyana Airways and the prime minister of Guyana, Moses Nagamootoo, said to the press earlier this year that the idea of resurrecting the airline isn’t dead. People in government are talking about it and, now, with the discovery of offshore oil by Guyana, the green and gold national colours may soon fly again.

This week the government announced the approval and set a timeline for the completion of the modernization and expansion of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA). A longer runway to accommodate larger aircraft is under construction.

Aviation policy, safety, security and compliance are being addressed by the government, which hosted an international aviation conference in 2015. These areas were highlighted as required to move Guyana forward. However, Guyana is facing severe shortage of expertise in these fields to get the job done. The new government is also still setting up its administration.

For decades, previous governments promised to elevate CJIA to Category 1. In simple terms, this means that Guyana meets US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) standards. Failure to meet US standards prevents Guyana based airlines from flying to the United States, and Guyana’s CJIA is a Category 2 airport. Trinidad-owned Caribbean Airlines (CAL) also made promises to help Guyana achieve category 1.

“Guyana is not working hard enough to understand the challenges and needs of airlines and passengers,” Travel Span, CEO Nohar Singh said.

He questioned the departure of American and Delta Airlines from Guyana and why the government of Guyana allowed it to happen.

Airlift from New York City to Guyana is still a problem. Fly Jamaica does not provide daily service and stops in Kingston. CAL flies via Port of Spain (POS) and the non-stop airfare is much higher than flights via POS. Dynamic Airways, which flies some three times weekly, is often cancelled or delayed. The aircraft are old and outdated.

Since 2011 the government of Guyana has been trying to get JetBlue and American Airlines to add Guyana to their route map. However, there seems to be no breakthroughs.

Perhaps now, with what Forbes magazine termed, “With second big oil discovery, Exxon puts Guyana on the map,” Guyana won’t have to beg for airlift.

david_pattersonThe major world class world discovery in Guyana by Exxon Mobil is certainly a game changer for the aviation sector there. JetBlue and American Airlines are likely to show more interest now.

Minister of Infrastructure, David Patterson
Minister of infrastructure, David Patterson, shared the revised plan of the airport with the public. He said that a new arrival terminal will be built, additional apron and parking areas, and the old terminal will be integrated with the new terminal for departing passengers. Completion of all work is scheduled for December 2017.

Passengers arriving at Cheddi Jagan International Airport. Photo: Wikimedia

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