Published On: Mon, Jun 26th, 2017

Aruba Airlines eyes the Guyana market

Aruba AirlinesGEORGETOWN - Aruba Airlines plans to commence daily flights between Aruba and the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) in Guyana from July 7.

The CJIA's US$200 million modernization and expansion project is expected to be completed by the end of 2017. However, the government is finding it very difficult to attractive reputable airlines to land at the new airport.

Aruba Airlines was founded in 2006 and currently has in its fleet an Airbus 319, two 320 and, on order, two Embraer ERJ 145. The Airbus 320 has the range to ply the Aruba/New York route. JetBlue uses the same type of aircraft to ply the Aruba/JFK route.

Aruba Airlines' network includes Venezuela, several cities in Cuba and Miami. There is good traffic between Guyana and Cuba and, with links to four cities in Cuba, it will haul in more traffic between Guyana and Cuba. And that will only increase because more Cubans will visit Guyana and Suriname to shop.

The airline hopes to use its Aruba hub, which houses a US Homeland and Border Control immigration office there, to link passengers to its network.

The airline has also applied to the civil aviation authorities in Suriname to fill the void left by the demise of Insel Air. There is excellent passenger traffic between Suriname and the ABC (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao) islands. This will also bring Cubans directly to Paramaribo, which has many more shops that offer a much wider variety of goods.

However, Surinam Airways (SLM) is always lobbying the government to close the skies from competition, but Suriname needs every single dollar due to its recession. The Suriname dollar has been devalued by almost half, and this is great news for Cuban shoppers.

Fly Jamaica and SLM will come in direct competition with Aruba Airlines on these routes. SLM and Fly Jamaica are waiting on Cuban government approval to land flights on that island. Competition on the route will force Fly Jamaica to lower its price.

With six flights a week planned using the Airbus 319/320, which seats from 138 to 150 passengers, the airline may however be too ambitious with regard to the numbers of passengers travelling between Guyana, Aruba, Venezuela, Miami and Cuba. Unless the airline expands its network to other lucrative cities with a Guyanese market, six flights a week between Aruba and Guyana may not be profitable for the airline.

New York and Brazil may also be on the radar for Aruba Airlines and, by expanding the network to include Guyanese markets, may justify daily Guyana/Aruba flights. There is no airlink between Guyana, Venezuela and Brazil.

In the meantime, Aruba Airlines needs to improve its website, which is not customer friendly and hard to navigate.

And in a related development, on Thursday, Guyana and Colombia signed an agreement to abolish the requirement for visas for nationals of their respective countries. This may pave the way for Avianca to enter the Guyana market. Guyana is expected to experience an economic boom from 2020 when its begins receiving US$5 billion yearly from recent oil discoveries.

By Ray Chickrie

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