The future of Caribbean Airlines’ (CAL) presence in Guyana is uncertain following the Government’s statement yesterday that the airline’s flag carrier status is not being considered.
The declaration made by Public Infrastructure Minister, David Patterson, at a news conference, was met with surprise in some quarters given CAL’s decades’-long history of service to Guyana.
Having flag carrier status would mean CAL is eligible for subsidies, special privileges and or rights in Guyana as part of its local operations.
The revelation comes on the heels of a recent report by the Guyana Consumer Affairs Commission implied that CAL’s high rates for its Georgetown to New York route were being used to subsidise its less profitable routes.
The Trinidad-based regional airline had denied the claim, stating “We are also frequently cheaper than our competitors, when comparing like-for-like,” adding “to pick out a few individual fares, as the article and the report on which it is based have done, and then suggest that this indicates that the airline is using these fares to subsidise routes elsewhere, demonstrates a limited understanding of how airlines operate in the real world,” according to the Caribbean Media Corporation.
Meanwhile, Patterson said the question of CAL’s flag carrier status was a “difficult” one and that it was not being currently contemplated by the Government. “First up let me say that Caribbean Airlines and the precursor BWIA have been a faithful service to the Guyanese people for the last 60 years and I would like to commend them for that and encourage them to continue as much as possible but the granting of that status is a complicated issue because even if it is granted, there is no guarantee that prices will go down.”
He also said that Guyana having its own national airline is still a possibility however, it would not be a Government-led initiative but rather one done in tandem with the private sector.
There is still I think an appetite for a national airline, not through government I wanna make that quite clear, this is probably through a public-private partnership. So it is something that is actively under consideration”.