Heads of government of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) in Suriname last week
By Ray Chickrie
Caribbean News Now contributor
PARAMARIBO, Suriname -- One of the concrete outcomes of the seventh summit of heads of government of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) held in Suriname last week, along with the state visit of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to Guyana on Saturday, was an agreement to link Guyana and Suriname with Venezuela by air by November this year.
This would directly benefit Guyanese and Surinamese travelers, especially since Guyana is not served by a reliable international carrier.
Guyana is only served by Caribbean Airlines (CAL), Surinam Airways (SLM) and LIAT, with the last two being notorious for delays and cancellations. And with the virtual monopoly that CAL has over the skies of Guyana, airfares between Guyana, Canada, New York, Trinidad and Barbados are exorbitant.
More recently, Dutch Caribbean Airlines (DAE), which flew between Curacao and Paramaribo, went out of business last week.
Suriname and Venezuela will examine the aviation treaty that exists between the two countries because Surinam Airways (SLM) is interested in providing direct flights to Caracas, according to Winston Lackin, the minister of foreign affairs of Suriname.
Presidents Desi Bouterse (Suriname) and Nicolas Maduro (Venezuela) met on Friday night with various stakeholders and aviation experts and held lengthy discussions on the subject to promote the integration of South American countries.
“It is important that attention is paid to the flight connections,” Lackin said.
The existing aviation treaty between Suriname and Venezuela will be reexamined, since the present one is not favourable to Suriname. SLM will consider the issue further, according to Lackin.
While SLM will be the designated Surinamese carrier to ply the Paramaribo-Caracas route, Caracas will designate its national carrier Conviasa to serve the route as well. However, Guyana, without a national carrier and because of recent tension with its so called national carrier, Caribbean Airways, Guyana granted Conviasa permission on Saturday during Maduro’s visit to connect Caracas and Georgetown.
By November of this year, Conviasa will fly to Guyana twice a week using a 70-seater ATR- 200. Possibly, the flight could originate in Paramaribo via Georgetown to Caracas. Conviasa has a fleet of 17 aircraft and has an order of an additional 20 Embraer 190s, which will allow the airline to grow. Conviasa flies to Argentina, Colombia, Cuba, Spain, Trinidad, Grenada and Dominica, which may give Guyanese another travel option besides the Port of Spain hub.
And in a related development, JetBlue’s Morgan Johnston said, “We have no current plans to fly to Georgetown, but our route planning team is always looking at potential new routes and market patterns for opportunities of future growth.”
Johnston, while not commenting directly about CAL’s fuel subsidy, made it clear that subsidies adversely affect how JetBlue chooses its destinations. This could very well be one of the reasons why JetBlue hasn’t added Trinidad and Guyana to its network.