The issue of charges faced by Guyanese passengers on Caribbean Airlines has taken off in wake of a report by the Guyana Consumer Affairs Commission that the airline was “milking” passengers on the Guyana route with its high prices.
Caribbean Airlines has dismissed the report and claims that if it is able to offer direct service between Guyana and New York, the prices could go down. But the complaints have not only been about that route.
Today, the issue was raised at the review press conference of the Ministry of Public Infrastructure which holds responsibility for the aviation industry.
Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson told reporters that while there are calls by some in the aviation industry for flag carrier status to be granted to Caribbean Airlines, such a move would be difficult for the government to undertake.
He said “right now they do not have a flag carrier status, right now I don’t think we are contemplating it. It is quite difficult for me. 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.”
Under the last government, Caribbean Airlines was granted flag carrier status on the Georgetown-Toronto route and that did very little to alter the prices that the airline was charging. While direct flights were offered initially, those were eventually replaced by the flights that made a stopover in Trinidad.
Minister Patterson reminded today that Caribbean Airlines remains a private organization and the pricing of airline tickets is done by the company and not the government.
He said even though the government could grant concessions and sign agreements with the company, there is still is no guarantee that the prices will go down and stay down.
The Minister acknowledged that airline ticket pricing has been an issue with Guyanese, with even the booking agents complaining about the prices and seeking government intervention.
He said it has been suggested that Guyana follows the lead of other countries and have the airlines first inform the government of prices changes for tickets before those changes are instituted.
On the issue of Guyana owning its own national airline again, Minister Patterson said the possibility exists but there will be the need for that to be done in conjunction 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”.
For many years, Guyana owned its own national airline under the Guyana Airways banner.
The previous government decided to privatize the airline to a consortium of businessmen and it became GA2000. The new airline encountered enough turbulence in its operations just after takeoff to force a permanent landing.
There has been no other national airline since. (by Dennis Glasgow)