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Uncertainty in the airline industry

Passengers disembarking a flight from Caribbean Airlines

…It’s just madness.

Those words were uttered to THE NEW TODAY by an airline industry official in Grenada to describe the current situation with flights in and out of the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA) one year after the coronavirus was first detected in China and soon swept through the world.

“There are just no tourists,” said the official who is a leading figure in the industry.

It’s sad. We are just going to spiral – we are just going down 100 miles,” he added.

The official hinted at minimal air traffic movement at MBIA since the airport was re-opened about five months ago.

According to the official, the industry received a serious blow with the ban on British Airways and Virgin Atlantic flights from the United Kingdom into Grenada due to the discovery of a strain of the virus.

He said that the two airlines have told local travel agents to refund the monies paid by persons who had booked flight to travel before the ban came into effect.

The official felt that Grenada should also be curbing flights not only from the UK but the United States as Covid-19 is now out of control there too.

He described as “crazy” the daily flight put on by American Airlines into MBIA from Miami and cannot understand the rationale for these flights which are almost empty of passengers.

In addition, he said that from next week, AA will be using a much bigger plane to fly the Miami/Grenada route apparently to do more trafficking in cargo.

The official noted that this is an airline that is begging for financial bailout from Washington but is now “willfully operating empty”.

“The average load is in single digits – seven and eight passengers on a flight,” he said.

According to the official, there is a marked difference in the way that Jet Blue is operating a weekly service from New York into MBIA.

He said: “Jet Blue is conserving their energy and their resources and operating with 60 to 70 passengers which is good – they could cover their costs. You cannot cover your cost with less than 10 people on a flight like that – that is crazy”.

According to the official, AA seems to be concentrating on taking cargo in and out of Grenada but he believes that in itself is not sufficient.

“Even if they carry 10 tonnes of cargo they could barely break even,” he said.

The official stated that in terms of regional air traffic, Caribbean Airlines have virtually cancelled all its flights into MBIA.

“They are down to 2 flights a week,” he said.

In addition, the official disclosed that the newlook Liat that is driven by Antigua’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne is doing flights only on a Monday and Friday.

He referred to these flights as “such a big kept secret” since “nobody can book it, nobody can pay for a ticket – even if you walk with cash at the airport they can’t take it from you”.

He said that the website for the new LIAT is not helpful as it constantly says one word on it, “404 Forbidden”.

According to the airline industry official, the new LIAT has just simple become “a laughing stock” within the airline industry.

He singled out the new entrant into the market, Inter-Caribbean which is based in the Northern Caribbean and started flying in to the Eastern Caribbean in the aftermath of Covid-19.

“So far their daily flights are going reasonable well with 16 or 17 people,” he said but quickly added that the fares are “sky high”.

“I did a fare this morning for Guyana and it came to $1700.00 each way – that’s a lot of money,” he said.

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