By Ray Chickrie
Caribbean News Now contributor
GEORGETOWN, Guyana — Two deadlines in the past for the completion of the expansion of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) have not been met and it looks like the minister of public infrastructure of Guyana, David Patterson, will have to eat his words again because the latest completion date set for December 2018 is also unlikely to be met.
The airport, which is being expanded and modernized by the controversial Chinese company, China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), won’t be completed by December. There is still about 40 percent of work yet to be completed. Roof, ventilation, gates, floor, sewer, drainage and irrigation have to be finished or revisited.
The runaway is not yet completed. The lengthening ran into serious problems and progress has been slow. The runway is situated on a plateau and at both ends of the runway it is an engineering challenge to extend it by backfilling. Weather, soil and climate make it more challenging.
Instead of extending the runway from one end only, the engineers decided to so from both ends. This was not part of the original plan.
The taxiways and apron were expected to be completed by March, while the new arrivals terminal was supposed to be completed by June. June has passed and it’s now August but the arrivals terminal isn’t completed.
According director of CJIA, Ramesh Ghir, the northeast extension of the runway was scheduled to be completed by July and the other end by December 2018.
From what has been completed so far, the airport is a modest improvement from the past but nothing that is iconic and environmentally friendly to match with the so called “green Guyana” movement.
Meanwhile, airfares between Guyana and North America during peak season remain at an all time high of US$1,200 round trip between NYC and Georgetown. There is no relief in sight.
The entrance of American Airlines to Guyana in November will not bring fares down. The company is looking to exploit the oil and gas sector of Guyana by flying business people to and from Guyana to Miami and other hubs. Fares will remain above US$1,000 for a round trip between New York or Miami and Georgetown.
Only Caribbean Airlines (CAL) offers non-stop scheduled services between Guyana, New York City and Toronto.
The country continues to face difficulties in attracting reputable companies to fly to Guyana. One reason for this is the issue of Guyana being a cocaine “hub” in the region and often the white power gets on airplanes heading to North America.
Major corruption at the airport of insiders colluding with drug traffickers has been exposed. Theft is also an issue for airlines and constraints at the airport that prevent a speedy turnaround of aircraft have all remained major issues that deter airlines from serving Guyana.