President of the National Air Transport Association (NATA) Annette Arjoon-Martins has welcomed the planned review of the operations of the Eugene F Correia International Airport, which the group is eagerly awaiting.
On Monday, during the renaming of the Ogle International Airport amidst an ongoing dispute among operators, Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson noted that a review is being done of the airport’s operations and the objections to the renaming would be addressed as part of it.
Contacted by Stabroek News yesterday, Arjoon-Martins said NATA is very appreciative of the fact that Minister Patterson, after meeting with it no less than three times, has not only listened to its concerns but acknowledged that they have merit.
“Operators who oppose today’s renaming have complained that this act will give an unfair advantage to a specific operator. Their concerns cannot be dismissed as something without merit. Therefore, this will also be addressed during our review process,” Patterson said at Monday’s renaming of the airport. He later said that the concerns raised have not fallen on deaf ears and that the renaming would not “drive the final nail in the coffin” of those who feel that they have become disadvantaged.
Patterson said that an independent legal firm is presently examining the lease of the airport to the airport company. “…I give my firm assurance that this separate exercise will be done transparently and the renaming of the airport will not affect the outcome or direction of the government in this matter,” he stated.
Arjoon-Martins said most important to the association was the fact that the minister has started the process of remedial actions, such as the review of the master lease between the government and the airport, of “which we eagerly await the results.”
“We were also very appreciative of him mentioning that we would be consulted during this review. NATA had given the minister and the lawyer who is doing the review a brief of our findings of noncompliance by the airport based on our collective findings and experiences,” she stated.
She added that when one looks at the conditions of the lease in terms of compliance, “we had identified all the areas of non-compliance and we had also sent copies to the minister and the lawyer.” She said the association looks forward to the public consultation with the aviation sector, which is affected, as part of the review process.
“Most importantly, corrective actions, which will play a great role in ensuring abuse and dominance does not rear its ugly head at Ogle again. We are also appreciative of Minister Patterson recognising that the concerns cannot be dismissed without merit and will be addressed,” she stressed.
She singled out the minister’s comment as it relates to a shorter runway for aircraft operators at the airport for special mention as she said this could significantly reduce their operational cost.
“I am happy that the minister has not put the final nail in our coffins but rather has hit the nail on its head as it relates to all the restrictive disadvantages faced by most of the operators,” Arjoon-Martins said.
A majority of the operators were against the renaming as they said it would give an unfair advantage to the Correia Group, which is a major player in the company running the airport. A bid in the High Court last week by NATA, which comprises nine aggrieved airport operators, to have the renaming halted was unsuccessful. The nine operators are Air Services Limited (ASL), Roraima Airways, Hinterland Aviation, Oxford Aviation, Phoenix Airways, Domestic Airways, Jags Aviation, Wings Aviation and Hopkinson Mining Aviation.
On Monday, President David Granger made it clear that it was he who suggested the name change and that he was never lobbied. He did not, however, address the concerns of those opposed to the renaming but rather focused on Correia’s contributions to the nation.