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Ogle Airport Inc. open-minded on law for private airports

Chairman of the Board of Directors of Ogle Airport Inc; Michael Correia and his Chief Executive Officer, Anthony Mekdeci at a news conference on Friday, November 13, 2015.

Even as the Ogle Airport Inc. fended off claims that a clique is behaving anti-competitively to the detriment of most domestically-owned operators, the company signaled it was open to the facility being governed by law instead of a contentious draft agreement.

Chief Executive Officer of Ogle Airport Inc; Anthony Mekdeci , however, explained that putting the agreement in place would be much easier than the enactment of legislation by Parliament.  “If we can get the Operator’s Agreement, a contractual arrangement would actually be quicker than the law. The law may take years.

It’s not a done deal! Nothing is a done deal at this stage. You have to examine both and see which one is a more plausible argument for everybody, not only for the airport but for the operators and the people,” he said.

OAI’s Chairman of the Board of Directors, Michael Correia Jnr. said being willing to consider having Ogle International Airport governed by a law did not mean that OAI was backing away from the proposed agreement which the newly-formed National Air Transport Association (NATA) has described as “draconian.” “I am not trying to back away from anything. All I am doing is telling you the truth. I am telling you that we are not backing away from it,” said Correia.

The idea of government enacting a law that governs private airports was mentioned at OAI’s Board meeting on October 9, 2015. The minutes of that meeting also state that operators would review the Draft Agreement and submit their response within 30 days for the further consideration and consultation of (Attorney-at-Law) Ms. (Melinda) Janki.

Junior Minister of Public Infrastructure, Annette Ferguson told Demerara Waves Online News that following a meeting with NATA representatives on Friday, a decision has been taken to review operations at Ogle. “We might be reviewing the entire situation,” she said.

She could not immediately say how the review would be done, and said that after the meeting with NATA she would be dispatching a number of recommendations to her government colleagues.

The airport’s management and nine of the 10 domestic carriers are embroiled in a bitter dispute that has been apparently triggered by a draft aviation operator’s agreement that, if approved and signed, could see OAI seizing, selling or destroying aircraft and other property if an operator fails to settle debts within 14 days notice.

Correia explained that the draft aviation operator’s agreement was modeled after one that is being used by the United Kingdom-based London City Airport.  He said models from the Cheddi Jagan International Airport and other airports in the Caribbean could not have been used because they are all government-owned unlike Ogle International Airport which is privately-owned.

Told that the seven-member board includes his sister Nicole Correia, close associates Malcolm Chan-a-Sue, OAI’s Chief Executive Officer Anthony Mekdeci,  the Board Chairman expressed confidence in their professionalism in making the best decisions for the airport.  “My personal view is that these people have the interest of the airport at heart. Mr. Chan-a-Sue doesn’t have the interest of Mike Correia…He is a professional person who, to me, would always operate on a professional line,”  said the Board Chairman.

The Junior Public Infrastructure Minister said if the claims of dominance by one operator are true, “that’s bad for business.”

The Correias are also major stakeholders in Trans Guyana Airways and Caribbean Aviation Maintenance Services (CAMS) which is also a fuel provider. A few years ago, domestic carrier Air Services Limited (ASL) had been at loggerheads with OAI and CAMS over the issue of fuel supply. Eventually, ASL was granted permission to build its own fuel farm at the airport.

In response to claims that OAI has been using its influence and 60 percent shareholder leverage to the disadvantage of small domestic operators, Correia showed the media around the airport where aircraft from other carriers are being allowed to park outside CAMS’ hangar.

The Board Chairman said he also intended to use his influence on the board to facilitate a loan scheme for one of the small operators who needs to develop an area of the airport or his usage.