GUYANA: Airport saga leads to more chaos

GEORGETOWN, Guyana – Guyana’s new airport fees have been implemented hastily and have led to long lines and delays at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA). For this reason, the issue has been taken up by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and is causing controversy in Guyana.

The Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) last Saturday replied to criticism from the IATA. CJIA issued a lengthy statement lecturing IATA that it “under no legal obligation to give the organisation an explanation.”

Instead, it urged IATA to “put in place the pay codes,” so that the funds can be collected. Passengers now have to queue up at CJIA to pay that additional fees, instead of the airlines collecting it as part of the ticket price. This has led to delays of departing flights.

Meanwhile, the airport will be completed this summer and from this picture and passenger complaints, it’s evident that the arrival hall is already too small and with little or no room to expand. When two or more flights arrive at the same time, it’s a chaotic situation. It can take up to one hour to clear immigration.

IATA representative, Peter Cerda, two weeks ago condemned the airport authority for the additional fees of US$15 for arriving passenger and US$17 for departing passengers.

He said, “It is completely unacceptable that passengers are being inconvenienced in such a manner. This is a direct result of the airport’s management refusal to engage with IATA on a process which is standard practice across the globe. As a consequence, our member airlines have unfortunately no choice other than to manually collect the additional fees and charges.”

CJIA in reply said, “CJIAC would like to emphasise that it has no arrangement or agreement with IATA. Its arrangements are with the airlines. Further, there is no contractual arrangement or requirement between the airlines and CJIAC which requires CJIAC (to) engage with IATA.”

CJIAC broadsided IATA when it said, “IATA without any cloak or shroud of legitimacy is demanding that CJIAC make what can only be characterised as an airport fee application filing to them providing full justification and explanation of the basis on which the fees have been determined.”

In defiance, the airport said, its officers and employees are prohibited from “providing information to entities for the purposes of certifying the basis on which the corporation determined the fees it would charge. Much less in this case where there is no legal relationship between IATA and CJIAC.”

CJIA said that on January 25, 2019, the airport informed airlines of the proposed fee increase which went into effect on April 1, 2019 and that it provided explanations of the fee increases, based on “capital improvements.”

“CJIAC budgeted two billion in capital works for 2019/2020 to improve the services offered to the passengers and its airport stakeholders. The larger terminal with passenger boarding bridges has seen a significant increase in operational cost inclusive of power consumption.”

Meanwhile, the airport is still incomplete; bathrooms are already clogging up or breaking. There is no air condition system functioning throughout the arrival or the departure areas. Check-in takes a long time and incoming passengers have to wait for an average of 30 minutes or more to clear immigration. There are only 10 arrival booths and two are used for VIP and Crew.

The departure and arrival terminals are already crowded because the government reduced the size of the expansion project.

The runway and the parking lots are still incomplete. Some of the major and minor roads leading to the airport and within the airport facilities are also incomplete.

The opposition leader, the former president Bharrat Jagdeo whose government initiated the project and reduced by the present government, condemned the additional arrival and departure fees.

Jagdeo said the US$150 million expansion and modernisation of the airport were aimed to increase passenger flow, thus eliminating the need to increase fees and taxes. Stakeholders also complained that the new taxes and additional fees do not stimulate tourism and domestic air travel.

Jagdeo said that his government conceived the airport expansion with the idea that increased passenger flow would offset the need to add more taxes and fees to passenger tickets to sustain the expansion project.

Credit: Caribbean News Now

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