A local aviation industry official has told Stabroek Business that passengers travelling in and out of Guyana were likely to experience continued flight delays and cancellations because of the constraints facing carriers providing a service to Guyana.
Speaking in the wake of the recent cancellation of a Constellation Tours flight out of Georgetown which left scores of passengers stranded and resulted in the summoning of the local Constellation manager to the office of Tourism and Industry Minister Manniram Prashad the official said that “operating challenges” that inhere in Charter operators – like Constellation – meant that difficulties will arise from time to time.
“What has to be recognized is that Charter services often lease a single aircraft to ply a particular route and that whenever a difficulty arises with that aircraft the Charter must await the availability of another aircraft which may be serving another route at the time,” the official said.
“This is not a criticism of Constellation or any other Charter service it is simply a reality of the way in which the industry is run,” the official said.
The official told Stabroek Business the long delays resulting from engine trouble and other difficulties were less likely to occur with large, established airlines where more replacement aircraft are available. “The reality is that Charter services, unlike an Air Canada or an American Airlines cannot afford to lease aircraft and have them placed on standby to await an emergency,”
And according to the official the proliferation of Charter services plying the Guyana route was a reflection of the country’s inability to attract larger, established airlines. The official told Stabroek Business that while handling services in Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados probably handled between thirty and forty flights each per day, those in Guyana invariably handled a maximum of two or three flights per day. The aviation source said that although the volume of traffic in and out of Guyana was increasing, the rate of increase was still insufficient to attract larger airlines to Guyana. The official added that should a major international airline begin to service the Guyana routes to North America both Constellation and Travel Span were likely to “fold.”
The official noted that while Caribbean Airlines also provided a service between Georgetown and North America many travelers preferred to use Charters since they offered direct flights to Canada and the United States, avoiding stops in Port of Spain. “What also makes the Charters more popular is the fact that their fares are competitive,” the aviation official said.
Meanwhile, Roraima Airways, the local company that serves as ground handlers for Constellation Flights to both the United States and Canada has been seeking to clear the air with regard to its involvement with the Constellation service. A senior Roraima official told Stabroek Business earlier this week that the company was not authorized to announce delays or cancellations for Constellation flights from the United States. “Unless we are otherwise directed by the local Constellation officials, either at the airport or in Georgetown, our responsibility is confined to baggage handling and boarding. Even if we become aware that a flight is delayed or is cancelled we cannot make a move unless we are so directed by Constellation officials in Guyana.”
The Constellation aircraft that plies routes to the United States is leased from Primaris, a Las Vegas-based company.
By contrast that Roraima official said that the company enjoyed full authority from Zoom, the company leasing aircraft for Constellation flights to Canada, to take such action as is necessary to ensure the welfare of passengers once it becomes aware that there are delays or cancellations. “The difference here is that Zoom has no representatives in Guyana and we have the responsibility to take responsibility for their passengers,” the Roraima official said.