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Call for changes in Airlift Committee

A JetBlue plane is on the Tarmac at MBIA in Point Salines

One of Grenada’s leading figures in the airline business is calling for the new government to make significant changes to the Airlift Committee and for the inclusion of persons who can help to make a major difference in attracting more traffic into the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA).

The official, with over 30 years of experience in the industry, blasted the current committee over its failure to attract more airlines to service the International Airport that is the main hub for tourism on the island.

He said there are many people who want to make a free contribution to luring airlines into the country but there seems to be “a lack of reception” from those in control of the committee.

“People don’t want to hear anything – they are happy to let whatever is going on, to go on,” he told THE NEW TODAY.

“And that is not a good thing … because if we continue to promote in the way we are doing, which is doing nothing – you’re just waiting for something to happen,” he said.

According to the official, there is a dire need to get a different set of people to help promote airlift and tourism into Grenada.

He was critical of the current existing Airlift committee which was accused of not being able to add a single extra airline at MBIA in five years.

He said the last major airlines to come into the airport at Point Salines in recent years were Delta and JetBlue when former Member of Parliament for St Andrew South-west, Yolande Bain-Horsford was the Minister of Tourism & Civil Aviation.

“So if you check back how many years that is, that is not a very good record. Nobody is listening and everybody is in charge and this is the frustration – same ole same ole,” he remarked.

“I am not saying that they should have a new airline every month but at least add something new every year at least,” he said.

The airline industry executive noted that even in the worst of times Grenada had a number of airline services at MBIA such as USAIR, Zoom, Sunwing, Monarch, JMC and Excel Airways.

He said that these airlines “came and they went and as soon as one disappeared we replaced them and there was that synergy but we have reached a low ebb where everybody is like lethargic – they are just waiting for something to happen.”

He stated that there are people in Grenada who know the market in “different facets and can help.”

According to the airline executive, the new Congress government of Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell should not be blamed for the state of affairs in the industry at the moment “for something that was woefully not done by the previous brigade.”

Grenada, he said, at the moment cannot compare itself tourism wise with neighbouring Barbados but can compare itself with St Kitts or St Vincent & The Grenadines.

However, he stressed that the Vincentian Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves is doing extremely well in the area of tourism and “you got to give it to him – this man has pulled in airlines at the drop of a hat and they are operating.”

He said the loads from British carrier Virgin Atlantic going into the new international airport in St Vincent is as good as Grenada and the Vincentians are even taking away traffic from Grenada for the Grenadines traffic because they are much organised and their whole system is better than what is happening in the Spice Isle.

“We here seem to be backward – we don’t even have an ice machine at the airport. A plane lands and I have seen managers jumping in their vehicles and going to one or two large hotels begging them for ice – often the ice is melted by the time they get back.”

“This is medieval. How can you have an airport without an Ice-making machine?

And this is also why we are hindered with flights from Europe because we do not have catering out of the island and if catering has to be subsidised by the GAA (Grenada Airports Authority) through the government then let it be – it has to be, you have to pay to play and you cannot have non-stop services when you cannot offer catering.

“The kids can’t even buy an ice-cream at the airport – seems to be going back to the days at Pearl’s airport.”

According to the official, about 10 years ago Grenada did offer catering at MBIA through a business operated by Liftoff Restaurant of the late Joseph Simon in conjunction with Goddards Enterprise out of Barbados.

He indicated that there are always spin-offs for the island from this kind of service at the airport since the aircraft was able to take on board water from Glenelg, as well as Jams from La Grenade Industries in St Paul’s.

He said that at the moment Grenada gets nothing because even the crew members of the airline are no longer overnight on the island.

In addition, the airline industry executive said that the island is losing out on refueling of the aircraft because it is too expensive for the airlines.

“The frustration is real at the lack of services at MBIA,” he added.

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