OPINION: Proceed cautiously with any new airline application

Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 December 2018, 9:21 by Denis Chabrol

By GHK Lall

I learn that an entity that once plied the skies between Guyana and points north has applied for approval to start over doing business with Guyanese travelers under a new configuration. I recommend that Guyanese authorities proceed cautiously, conduct really robust and stringent due diligence; and after only the most rigorous tests should such approvals be forthcoming to anyone.

I think that any new entrant into the commercial aviation field in Guyana ought to be welcomed. This is necessary and would be a boost to presently tight travel options with the right partners. Take a look around as either prospective traveler, or accompanying family member, or just casual observer, and it becomes clear that the field of airline participants is too thin. This has rendered the Guyanese public vulnerable before established operations, and who, if truth be told, from time to time, are treated like poor unwanted relations. Paying relations, that is. Things have gotten better, but there are occasions when the sense is this: take it or leave it; this is what it is; and make up your mind or it is gone. And for too long, many a dreary decade, some carriers have gotten away with one contemptible episode after another that has been insulting and degrading to Guyanese. I have seen this over rhe years. The Guyanese traveler deserve better.

That was in respect of the bigger boys; there is bigger trouble with the smaller unknowns, the horror stories that emerge out of nowhere to offer services (usually enticingly cheap) mainly to far northbound travelers and which unsurprisingly attracts a crowd, despite previous burn marks. Too often, citizens have looked on with dismay at the spectacle of the irate stranded, who have no one to speak with, nowhere to turn, and with no answers forthcoming. I have seen these shabby occurrences as traveler and bystander. After the one incident involving myself back in the 1990s, my resolution was simple: never again. I have been able to stick to that promise; and though I travel infrequently nowadays, there are close ones who have to do so often. The thought is still the same: only established reputable carriers. Quite frankly, I am not enthralled by the one that has dominated, almost monopolized international air travel in Guyana; it is why I am delighted to learn of American Airlines already present, and possibly United coming down the jet stream. That can only be good news, given their strength, reputation, and my own experience with most of them. I am much more comfortable with these kinds of giant corporate presences; and so, too, should be Guyanese authorities and the Guyanese travelling public.

Having said this much, I still believe that there is place(s) for newcomers, but only those with the right aviation pedigree, a proven one. Thus, such approval and welcome should only be extended after all the checks and meaningful protective measures have been put in place. By this I mean the financial strength of the applicants, the specific aviation record of the group and principals, and the general business history of those powering such ventures. After all the negative experiences over the decades, the ramshackle fly-by-night outfits, the local aviation powers have a duty to the Guyanese public to review carefully and critically. Who is who? How many planes? What is the minimum amount to be held in escrow (not enough currently)? What are the contingency arrangements? Though I believe in second chances, this approval process has to be: one whiff of disconcerting uncertainty or a single material question mark, and that should be enough to tilt the scales of consideration against clearance. I know this is somewhat draconian, but I am tired of seeing again and again, these aviation marriages that, after a brief honeymoon of sweetening travel bliss, end up in the public abuse that has been the primary character of such operations. It has been as though the gullible Guyanese traveler is being primed and set up to be a sucker down the road. Stated differently: no flight, no refund, no nothing. Goodbye! I could reel off from the top of my head the names of past suitors, who promised a broad universe of friendly skies and ended up delivering a world of misery. They check-in and just as rapidly checkout, with only the detritus of jilted angry people left behind.

Let there be an end to this one-man, one-plane, one-flight from trouble reality that has plagued repeatedly. Usually, it is the most vulnerable-the elderly, the minimum wage toiler, and the nonbusiness traveler-who are left on the street here or somewhere over there. As we welcome potential entrants, this has to be done right. Standards have to be set and then maintained. Only those who pass through the muster of fine-tooth combs should be entrusted to go forward with what is a very sensitive responsibility.