In the last few weeks, Guyana Aviation has received dozens of questions via its website, social media accounts and even a few phone calls inquiring about the reopening of Guyana’s airports. While it is understandable that people need to know the answer, we can only share information that is made public. Anything outside of that will be pure speculation.
Guyana Aviation is in the business of curating information on aviation and air travel relative to Guyana, and to a lesser extent on the Caribbean and other regions of the world.
News, information and commentary come from a variety of public sources and we try our best to provide useful content to both aviation enthusiast and the traveling public. That said, we have no affiliation with the government of Guyana nor any inside source for information that may not be otherwise known.
So to answer the question on why Guyana isn’t reopening its international airports, we can only speak from an aviation safety standpoint.
In aviation, like other high-risk industries, one has to be careful when making decisions as they should be guided by evidence rather than emotions. The need for people to travel internationally is subordinate to providing them with that ability to do so in a safe way.
As an example, airlines with Boeing 737MAX in its fleet are anxious to get them back in the air, but regulatory authorities would not unground the aircraft if they have no assurance that it is safe to do so. For more than a year, Boeing has been working on fixes to bring the aircraft type back into service, and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has carried out a slew of test flights as part of the recertifying process. That process is still ongoing.
Similar to this process, officials in Guyana would be working to safely restore international flight operations in the country, although the timeline would be far less by comparison.
The decision to reopen the airport hinges upon the level of risk that the country is exposed to and the available means to mitigate it. Having said that, it will boil down to how well the country can manage the risks.
As a starting point, the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority has implemented regulations for aviation stakeholders to be guided by for operations in the COVID-19 environment. These may be sufficient for the time being, but will inevitably evolve as we learn more about the virus and how to combat its spread.
Beyond the aviation aspect, there is the health care capacity to deal with contingencies that may arise when the flood gates (in this case, the airports) are open. This will no doubt be a crucial factor in determining when the airports are reopened.
Speaking at a press conference this week, Minister of Public Works Juan Edghill who oversees the aviation sector admitted that with commercial traffic, additional safety measures will have to be put in place, adding that “it’s a matter of us getting prepared and we believe that in two weeks we will be ready.”
Demerara Waves also reported this week that the government is working to purchase mobile disinfection tunnels that will aid in disinfecting arriving and departing passengers.
Both the statement by the minister and the report by Demerara Waves suggests that the authorities are working on the COVID-19 mitigation.
While we at Guyana Aviation cannot speak to the Guyana government’s health services capacity or its progress towards reaching an acceptable level, we certainly understand the process that has to be embarked upon to get the airports reopen to international travel.
I am sure that officials are watching and learning from the experiences of other countries that have reopened its borders. In the Caribbean, at least two countries – The Bahamas and St. Maarten – opened its borders then subsequently curtailed travel from the USA and other countries which have had a spike in new COVID-19 cases.
Air travel is a big driver of international commerce and domestic economies and weighs heavily on governments to open its borders, but in the end, all of these would be meaningless if the health of its citizens cannot be assured.
Looking at it from the perspective of the airlines, the reopening of the airports would not necessarily mean the restoration of air service if the demand for travel on some routes cannot justify the cost of operating. Airlines are in business to make a profit (except LIAT), so the routes that they operate and the frequency of their operations will no doubt be determined by demand.
In conclusion, it is my belief that the authorities will only reopen the airport when they are confident that in the worst case scenario, they are effectively able to hand a large mass of people should they become infected by the COVID-19 virus, the evidence for which would be made bare for all to see.
I hope that I have shed some light on the question that many people are asking and would love to get your feedback.