Why did the government grant flag carrier status to CAL?

Dear Editor,

Caribbean Airlines has increased its airfare for Guyanese to an all-time high of US$1400 for the New York trip. Everyone expected this move by the airline except the hapless Guyana government, because they are always the last to know about these things. Whether the government was living in denial or it was just a situation of crass misjudgment, it was only time before CAL’s fares were going to go up. It was expected especially when you are the sole operator out of here on international routes. Seeing they now have the privileged position of flag carrier and a virtual monopoly of airspace, CAL can do what it wants.

The question is why did the Government of Guyana make such a colossal blunder in granting CAL flag carrier status? The reason behind this hasty move is beyond me, judging from the fact that so many airlines owned and/or operated by Caribbean entities have failed. The dismal record is there to prove it. Let’s start with Guyana Airways moving over to Trinidad’s BWIA now CAL, EZee Jet, Caribbean Star, Carib Express, Red Jet, Air Jamaica even the regional airline LIAT.  The reason why CAL is still in circulation is that the Trinidad government heavily subsidizes it. These airlines appear to be constantly in the red.

The point I am making is Minister Irfaan Ali and by extension the Guyana government are negligent where aviation matters are concerned.

They should not have allowed an international carrier of the reputation of Delta Airlines to exit our route; it was simply asking for trouble. If Delta was still coming our way CAL would have been more circumspect in their actions. When Delta pulled out Caribbean Airlines simply worked its way up into the government’s arms to get flag carrier status, then boom, prices shot right up. They have been courting us for years now on flag carrier status which former ministers resisted, but the present minister fell for the ruse. He is now sabre-rattling but what could he do to change this?

Now I live and work here in St Lucia and I’ve seen so many international airlines in good and regular standing leaving or at least hint that they wanted to leave.
The moment word gets to government, in a flash the tourism minister would either go to the airline or invite them to discussions as to the way forward. More often than not the airlines stay; it is with that urgency such matters are dealt with.

You simply do not play around with tourism which is the lifeblood of all these island economies.

Guyana, on the other hand, which has such great potential in tourism and nothing else is pussyfooting in the international airlift arena. What the minister should be doing is talking to his Caribbean counterparts and learning valuable lessons from them.

Coming out of those discussions he would be able to come up with newer and innovative ideas of his own. These Caribbean nations have had a successful history on such matters so he should get the help he needs. Taking the high-handed approach that one knows it all would achieve nothing.

Yours faithfully,
Neil Adams

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