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BA and Virgin cancel more flights into MBIA

A Virgin Atlantic plane on the tarmac at MBIA

Update: Virgin Atlantic issued a statement on June 29th 2021 confirming flights to Grenada will resume twice weekly from 16 July following confirmation that Grenada will be designated ‘Green’. The full text of their statement is as follows:

“Following confirmation last week that Antigua, Barbados and Grenada will be designated ‘Green’ on the Government’s travel list from Wednesday 30 June, we have increased the number of flights to these destinations.  From the 15th July flights to Antigua will increase to three times a week and flights to Barbados will be daily from 25th July. Flights to Grenada will resume twice weekly from the 16 July.  All flights will be operated on Virgin Atlantic’s Boeing 787’s, offering five cabins across Upper Class, Premium and Economy Delight, Classic and Light.”

Grenada might not see a direct flight from Britain into the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA) for several weeks, according to a leading airline industry official.

Speaking to THE NEW TODAY on Tuesday, the official said that both British Airways (BA) and Virgin Atlantic have cancelled all their flights for July and in some cases for August into Grenada.

BA was planning to relaunch its service to MBIA from July 14 and Virgin on July 16.

However, the official said that BA has sent out messages to travel agents announcing the cancellations of flights set for July 14, July 17, as well as July 21 and July 24 but has not said anything about the flight listed for July 28.

“…It’s not looking good,” he remarked.

According to the official, Virgin has now cancelled its flights that were being sold for July 16, July 19, July 23, July 26 and July 30 and even August 2.

He said he suspects that the two leading airlines in the UK might not schedule any flights into Grenada in the downturn period of September to November but might look to re-enter around the Christmas peak period.

He told THE NEW TODAY that prior to the announced cancellations from BA and Virgin, the loads on the two flights were not even looking good with booking of around 25 and 35 passengers in some cases.

He said that an airline needs loads of about 90-100 passengers for the flight to make commercial sense.

“With load factors of less than 20% this is a mockery,” he remarked.

The cancellation of BA and Virgin flights into Grenada will affect the revenue stream of the already financially-plagued Grenada Airports Authority (GAA) which has been forced to go to government for assistance to the tune of one million dollars each month to keep afloat.

The official indicated that medical students from Nigeria who are currently stranded in the UK will be heavily impacted by the decision of the two airlines not to resume flights to MBIA in the coming weeks.

He said that these students have been trying to get into Grenada for the last 2-3 months and that many of them do not have US visas to catch a connecting flight in a major city in the United States and then fly into MBIA.

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The airline official also pointed to a major issue that can affect the resumption of British flights into Grenada as the possibility exists that the UK is well into the 3rd wave of Covid-19 and could get hit by even a 4th wave of the deadly virus.

In addition, he said that there is not any major incentive for British people to travel to Grenada since they will have to do at least a minimum of 2-days in quarantine even if the person is fully vaccinated against the virus.

Britons, he said, would prefer to go to another destination at this stage that is closer to home like Cyprus rather than the long haul with its perils.

He stressed that the average traveller from the UK who get into long haul flights to Grenada and the Caribbean normally book their flights several months ahead and not at the last minute.

He warned that only the destinations that are “seriously promoted” will succeed in these trying times of Covid-19.

According to the official, Barbados which is known to be high on the list of countries favoured by British tourists is currently being affected and has seen its flights cut in half by British Airways and now doing only 3 and 4 flights a week to the Grantley Adams International Airport.

He said the loads into Barbados are not “fantastic” at the moment but at least the island serves as a gateway for passengers travelling on BA to get into other islands like St Vincent and Grenada.

He also said that not many travellers are willing to change planes in Barbados and then get into Grenada.

The official cautioned the island’s tourism planners against being too optimistic and trying to push BA and Virgin to put on two weekly flights from each airline whenever the time comes for a resumption of air travel service between the two countries.

He said it will be impossible to get the loads to make any of the flights profitable since none of the airlines at the moment can get enough people to fill the planes.

“You need to start from the ground up. Basically, they should start with one flight first and once there is a demand then you can increase it to two flights,” he added.

“American (Airlines) was very clever – they have gone down to two flights (at MBIA) and their loads are quite heavy and they are making higher yields,” he said.

Apart from AA, Grenada is also served on the US Market by JetBlue which has resumed almost daily service from out of JFK in New York.

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