by Stacy Carmichael-James
With plans afoot to modernize the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), through the Airport Expansion Project, a new report commissioned by the Inter American Development Bank (IDB) has concluded that Guyana and neighbouring Suriname cannot become air hubs of the region in the near future.
The report by Andy Ricover, titled “Constraints to Regional Air Connectivity between countries of the Guyana Shield and South America”, released in November 2015, recommended that the respective governments of Guyana and Suriname actively engage in negotiations to connect them with major South American hubs in Colombia, Brazil and Panama.
The report, following an analysis of the operations of the airports in the Guyana Shield stated that “it is evident that only Suriname and Guyana experience very low levels of connectivity, hampering their connection to the region and to the rest of the world in general.”
The report claims that the CJIA in terms of dimension and appearance is not up to international levels of service including passenger processing areas, specifically for outbound passengers, which it states “present deficient conditions of facilitation, comfort and acceptable level of service”.
While analyzing the Institutional framework in both countries, the report highlighted a few conflict of interests as it relates to the functions of different bodies within the sector, it was highlighted that “it is also important to note that appropriate institutional frameworks that clearly separate the different functions among distinct bodies guarantee the development of effective aviation policies. By accomplishing a clear separation of functions, Guyana and Suriname would be able to foster both an unrestricted market access and a competitive environment for both local and foreign carriers.”
Importantly, the IDB report said the lack of bilateral agreements with the rest of the South American nations should be addressed by both the Guyanese and Surinamese governments, pointing out that Guyana has no Air Service Agreements (ASAs) with Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay nor Ecuador.
It noted that ” the inexistence of these air service agreements is a reflection of the few existing cultural, social and economic ties between both Guyana and Suriname and the southern nations of South America. Even when the mere celebration of an air service agreement does not guarantee the development of traffic between two countries, it is a necessary condition for its existence.”
In this regard, “should market demand arise in the future for the development of non-stop services to destinations in these countries, the first step for the Guyanese and Surinamese governments would be to negotiate and celebrate bilateral agreements with the authorities of these nations,” the report added.
As a result of low origin and destination (O&D) passenger traffic, it was asserted that “for this reason, the possibility of developing a hub at this point in time, at either Georgetown or Paramaribo is difficult. In the foreseeable future, airlines could not develop a viable business by connecting other cities through either one of these two capitals, since the O&D volume is very low.”
However, the report recommended that by increasing the number of available services to regional hubs, both countries would increase their connectivity, allowing departing passengers from Georgetown and Paramaribo to reach multiple destinations in South America using hubs as gateways to the rest of the continent.
Lastly, cost, the report pointed out that Guyana, log with Suriname are expensive for passengers and airlines. It claims that the Guyana airport is the eighth most expensive airport; with Suriname coming in seventh, of a sample of airports in South America. Guyana, according to the report has a total cost of US$13,032 (3.6% above the sample average).
Critical to note, despite these findings, Guyana is served by COPA Airlines of Panama, connecting it to a major hub, which links it with COPA’s Latin America, Europe and North America networks.
Guyana will also shortly be linked with two World class hubs, Dubai and Istanbul when Emirates and COPA iron out a few issues involving their planned collaboration, through code-share.