By Ray Chickrie
Caribbean News Now contributor
GEORGETOWN, Guyana — Copa Airlines, which commenced twice weekly service to Guyana in 2015, and expanded that to four flights a week a year ago, on Thursday announced an additional flight to Guyana on Fridays, bringing the total number of flights to five per week. Also on Thursday, US ambassador, Perry Holloway, and the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) confirmed that United Airlines, a Copa partner, is exploring the Guyana market.
Junior minister of aviation, Annette Ferguson, confirmed that United Airlines will send a delegation to hold talks with officials from GCAA.
“They have signaled their intention of coming to Guyana, so I think they are currently in talks with the GCAA,” she said.
Holloway, during a media interview, said, “United is interested in coming to talk… It makes sense because the capital of the oil industry is in Houston, Texas, and one of United’s hubs is Houston. I would expect that one of the airlines that would be most interested is United Airlines.”
Meanwhile, according to Copa Sales Manager in Guyana, Nadine Oudkerk, the airline will offer Guyanese passengers more travel options.
“The addition of a fifth flight to Guyana is part of our ongoing expansion efforts in the country and demonstrates that Copa is here to stay. We have been able to build strong partnerships with a number of groups, companies and individuals and remain committed to further developing these valuable relationships,” Oudkerk said.
Copa is the top airline among six serving Guyana since they offer passengers free in-flight meals, entertainment and drinks; additionally, passengers are allowed two suitcases free of charge and the Panama hub is not as congested and problematic like Miami or Port of Spain.
American Airlines (AA), which just commenced service to Guyana, offers passengers no extras. Travellers pay for everything such as food, luggage and seat reservations. Caribbean Airlines (CAL), which has been serving Guyana for the past 50 years, offers Guyanese travellers from North America a sandwich, cold beverages and one suitcase free. Surinam Airways (SLM) offers free food and two suitcases.
The COPA/United/Avianca alliance announced last week, has given Guyanese travellers more options. The airline, through its United Airlines deal, is currently offering round trip airfares to Guyana up to May for as little as US$470 from New York City. Copa is also offering US$600 roundtrip from JFK to Georgetown.
Caribbean Airlines on the other hand has increased its their fares to Guyana from NYC to US$780 via Port of Spain, and the non-stop flight from JFK to Georgetown is now over US$855.
Travellers in and out of Guyana are now able to access over a hundred destinations on the Avianca, Copa and United Airlines network to North America, the Caribbean, Europe and Asia at competitive fares.
The agreement, in addition to the US, seeks coverage in the following countries: Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guyana, French Guyana, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela.
Meanwhile, Guyana is yet to conclude various agreements to link the Copa Panama hub to Turkish Airlines Istanbul mega-hub. Copa and Turkish Airlines also entered into a code sharing alliance to market their flights seamlessly.
“From rags to riches,” Guyana is getting global attention
The Houston Chronicle last week put it this way: “The small South American nation of Guyana could become the continent’s second-largest oil producer thanks to the offshore discoveries made by Exxon Mobil, according to the research firm Wood Mackenzie.”
Exxon Mobil said its new Pluma-1 well discovery in Guyana, the tenth so far, and future projections from other findings, have increased the reserve estimate from four billion barrels of oil equivalent to five billion.
Bernardo Ordas, Copa’s regional sales manager, said, “The airline is very proud to be serving Guyana. The additional flight will cater to the growing demand and will also provide a way by which Guyana’s tourism product could be further enhanced. We are also cognizant of the increase in traffic associated with Guyana’s emerging oil and gas industry and would like to continue playing a role in national development.”