Grenada Airports Authority (GAA) today announced that the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA) has been restored to Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting (ARFF) Services Category 9 after receiving a shipment of fire safety supplies yesterday, Thursday, October 22, 2020.
“The Grenada Airports Authority reiterates its commitment to aviation safety and security and will continue to work in compliance with industry standards at all times,” a release on the Grenada Information Service website said.
Earlier this month the management of Grenada’s only international airport voluntarily downgraded the facility due to the late arrival of firefighting aggregates — supplies for the fire service to effectively combat a fire emergency of large aircraft, as required by International Civil Aviation Organisation regulations.
According to one official, the airport authority had paid for the material about two months ago; however, the closure of international borders due to the coronavirus pandemic had resulted in a delay of delivery from the supplier.
As a result, the GAA had no other choice but to prevent the landing of a British Airways aircraft scheduled to land at MBIA on October 13 and return on the next day, as it underscored the value it placed on airline safety and security. It also cancelled inbound flights of large carriers assigned Category E aircraft status.
“British Airways was all booked to come, had a pretty good load; and then, based on the size of the plane, you have to have certain materials so that if there is a fire you have to have enough foam to put out the fire and dry chemical which they call aggregates,” Grenada’s Tourism Minister Clarice Modeste explained then.
“The airport had some of that in storage and when they tested it recently, they realised it was not satisfactory. While in storage it had deteriorated to some extent and could not be used, so they had to inform British Airways,” she continued.
Though an unforeseen circumstance, Modeste pointed out that the airport took full responsibility for not having the safety equipment and therefore voluntarily downgraded its fire safety status.
Even so, the cancellation of the British Airways flight to the island greatly inconvenienced both incoming and outbound passengers to and from the Caribbean country. The tourism minister, at the time, urged passengers waiting to board the craft to explore travelling to Barbados or St Lucia as a transit point to London.
The London-based airline also informed passengers of the development and advised passengers likewise.
“Due to operational circumstances outside of our control, your flight to London has been cancelled. The airport authority in Grenada has temporarily downgraded the fire and rescue coverage at the airport. This means we are unable to send any of our larger, long haul aircraft to Grenada, as the airport teams would not be able to respond in case of emergency,” a message from British Airways said in part.
“The aircraft will continue to operate as planned to depart from St Lucia. You can continue to travel from St Lucia to London Gatwick, although any travel from Grenada to St Lucia will be at your own cost. Alternatively, we can offer you a flight from Barbados to London Gatwick, although travel from Grenada to Barbados will be at your own cost,” it said in addition.