The Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri (CJIA) raked in a surplus of $208M last year and CEO Ramesh Ghir said it is being ploughed into sustaining its operations.
Ghir was at the time addressing a gathering of airport staff, aviation sector stakeholders and the media at the CJIA’s Maintenance Division compound as the airport celebrated its 10th anniversary of being incorporated as a semi-autonomous body.
He said that in 2010, revenue collection stood at $633M and rose to $748M last year while the surplus rose from $123M in 2010 to $280M last year. The surplus, he noted, will be used to further enhance the operations of the airport as well as offset costs associated with the development.
Ghir explained that the management of the airport has worked assiduously over the past decade to build the airport’s image to one that is recognised in the region as being of a professional brand.
He added that the CJIA recorded a number of pluses over the years, including the resurfacing of the main runway, the installation of a new runway lighting system, introduction of a computerised identification card system as well as several other initiatives aimed at enhancing its image.
He said that with the expansion project which will be undertaken by a Chinese firm, the CJIA will be able to reach its full potential. He said passenger figures, including tourist arrivals, have peaked in recent years.
Ghir made special mention of the arrival of low carrier REDjet to the travel market here, saying that the airline has played a critical role in providing the opportunity for many persons to travel for the first time and reducing the cost of air fares within the region. REDjet moved 15% of 47,000 passengers who left here last year and Ghir added that the airline was gaining market share as it expanded its routes.
The airline suspended its operations last month and is currently in talks with several Caribbean governments to have its operations back in the sky.
Ramesh Dookhoo, who assumed the chairmanship of the CJIA board last year, told the gathering that the new board is trying to build on the achievements of its predecessor. He said that over the past 10 years, the CJIA has moved from a scrappy airport that saw many “uncontrolled activities” to a professional port of entry with services to accommodate the most sophisticated of travellers.
Dookhoo acknowledged the doubt over whether the current facility can take the airport into the future, adding that in the private sector there is general recognition that travel to and from Guyana is inadequate, regardless of how the scenario is examined.
He, however, said that the CJIA board, the airport’s management and government have been researching international developments and added that the country is attracting new interest to its economy, including in related sectors such as tourism.
At the same time, he noted that several areas need to be examined where the airport is considered, including the affordability of a competitive price of fuel for all new players in the local travel market. He mentioned ongoing talks between the government and potential players, such as the JetBlue airline and Air Canada.
Dookhoo also touched on the performance of the travel market regionally, noting that Caribbean Airlines’ takings off the travel market in Guyana fell to 55% recently and according to him, competition is good for the regional market.
Meantime, Transport Minister Robeson Benn said that the management of the CJIA has exceeded its operations within the past 10 years. He said that the bar has been set high, noting that the CJIA is today an international facility which he described as one of the most beautiful in the Caribbean.
He said that discussions are ongoing as regards the expansion of the known capacity of the airport. “The only way it can be done and we have to look ahead for the next 50 years, is to put in place the new facility we have spoken of in respect of a new airport terminal building and an extension of the runway,” he said.
Benn stated that recent figures have indicated that there is a 27% increase in passenger arrivals to Guyana for the first quarter of the year.
He said that the trend is anticipated to continue, and according to him, the government remains committed to ensuring development and sustainability of the sector.
Recently, the National Assembly approved estimates for sums allocated towards the airport expansion project which will be undertaken by Chinese engineering company China Harbour and Engineering Company (CHEC).
Benn stated that the government was caught off guard on the day of the signing last September, when mention was made of the agreement reached with CHEC in the Jamaican media. He said that the government was on the back foot at the time as regards entering into the agreement.
He explained that the government had a “very narrow window in September last year when a Chinese vice-premier travelled through the Caribbean with several billion dollars in money to fund projects and it was the only opportunity we had then to fund the undertaking.” He said that government was able to take advantage and make use of the funding.
Meantime, residents of Timehri yesterday expressed appreciation to the CJIA management, following the unveiling of a bus shed which will be for their benefit. Ghir stated that the venture, which was undertaken following an accident on the road last year, was part of the airport’s social responsibilities as a corporate entity.