by Samuel Sukhnandan
With many international air carriers still not back in operation, the new government through the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) is currently engaged in reviewing applications for limited inbound and outbound flights out of Guyana.
Minister of Public Works Mr. Juan Edghill said Tuesday during a press conference that flights have been approved for the months of September and October, 2020 by Eastern Airline. The GCAA will publish the dates where all interested parties could be made aware of the flights from New York and Miami.
Minister Edghill said, “the commercial air carriers have not yet indicated that they want to resume operation.” He added that the GCAA was unable to get the Trinidad-based international air carrier, Caribbean Airlines (CAL) to facilitate several repatriated flights mainly because the Piarco International Airport also remains closed to commercial flights.
However, the GCAA is now engaging WestJet and other commercial air carriers to facilitate the repatriation of Guyanese from and to Canada. “Flights to Toronto, that is a work in progress. The latest communication engagement is with WestJet to have similar arrangements for chartered flights at specified times.”
The minister who has responsibility for the aviation sector admitted that with commercial traffic, additional safety measures will have to be put in place.
“So it’s a matter of us getting prepared and we believe that in two weeks we will be ready. But we are not sure that the commercial airlines will be ready…So what we are doing is approving the charters to keep the movement of people in and out and because it’s only charters, the system in place is adequate to handle the current traffic,” he added.
At present, the government is also working to purchase mobile disinfection tunnels that will aid in disinfecting arriving and departing passengers. Also, the airport authority is working closely with the private sector to provide rapid COVID-19 testing and plans to implement further international protocols safety guidelines.
The phased reopening of the country’s international airports was delayed after officials of the GCAA consulted with the Ministry of Health last month. A decision was made to have the current phase continue to allow limited repatriation flights, outgoing flights, cargo flights, medevac flights and special authorized flights.
The Authority said it has drafted Regulations and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to guide aviation stakeholders on the measures which are expected to aid in the mitigation of the spread of Covid-19 and the full resumption of aviation-related activities.
COVID-19 has hit the wider travel and transportation industry disproportionately hard; with airports and airlines being impacted since early 2020.
Guyana’s airports have been closed since early March.