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Civil Aviation Authority to probe reported hikes in domestic airfares

The Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) says it will be probing reports that a number of domestic airlines have increased airfares to several interior locations, despite the fact that the 14 percent value added tax (VAT) has been scrapped so that local travel and planes can make up for fewer passengers with more cargo.

“The GCAA condemns these actions by air operators and will be investigating these reports to ensure that passengers are not treated unfairly during this unfortunate period. The GCAA strongly encourages domestic operators to cease and desist from this unconscionable conduct,” the regulatory agency said in a statement.

In addition, in keeping with social distancing requirements, the GCAA recalled allowing passenger flights at 50 percent of the aircraft seating capacity to all non-border locations.

Arriving at this decision, the GCAA said it anticipated that air operators would combine cargo and passengers to ensure maximum utilization of the aircraft weight capacity which is the dependent factor for operation of an aircraft.

“The means that the excess weight allowed with only 50 percent passenger weight can be utilized by carrying cargo thus having a full load or combined (passenger/cargo) operation,” the regulator said.

In addition, the Government’s removal of the VAT on domestic travel until June 30 and the significant reduction in fuel price should negate any increase in the cost of domestic air travel.

In condemning the overpricing by air operators, the GCAA promised to investigate those reports to ensure that “passengers are not treated unfairly during this unfortunate period.

“The GCAA strongly encourages domestic operators to cease and desist from this unconscionable conduct,” the semi-autonomous authority said.

The GCAA relied on a number of media reports that claimed that domestic operators had increased airfares to transport passengers and cargo to the interior regions of Guyana.

Director General of the GCAA, Lt. Col. (Ret’d) Egbert Field, said the development is “unconscionable and unscrupulous” given the unfortunate prevailing health pandemic affecting the entire world.

In light of the global pandemic of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the GCAA issued a Directive on March 18, restricting all international flights except for outgoing flights, cargo flights, medivac flights, technical stops for fuel only and special authorized flights for a period of 14 days, in order to enhance public health and stop the spread of the COVID-19. This Directive was further extended until May 1.

The GCAA recalled that on April 2  after a careful assessment of the domestic situation, it issued another Directive to address domestic flights where passenger flights to all border locations were suspended, and passenger flights to all other locations will operate at 50 percent of the aircraft seating capacity. There was no restriction on cargo flights throughout the entire country. This Directive is in effect until May 1.

“In the formulation of the Directive, the GCAA was very conscious of the need for consignments (goods, equipment and supplies) to be transported to various hinterland locations especially those inaccessible by water or road. Hence, there is no restriction on cargo flights. The GCAA is therefore alarmed that the rates for transporting cargo by air have significantly increased,” the GCAA said.