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Gov't could use GDF Skyvan to transport goods at a lower cost in light of 'high airfare' -Toshao

Toshao of Kamarang Village, Upper Mazaruni, Region Seven Lemmel Thomas. [Photo: Guyana Chronicle]

Toshao of Kamarang Village, Upper Mazaruni, Region Seven Lemmel Thomas is inviting more private aircraft owners to operate in the hinterland communities situated in Region Seven as the high cost of airfare is contributing majorly to the high cost of basic commodities. Currently Air Services Limited and Trans Guyana Airways ply the Paruima to Georgetown route and other destinations in the region. “We are inviting more aviation industries to step in so that there can be a competition. The government does not have an aviation service and so there’s no turning to the left or right and we understand that,” Thomas asserted. Thomas also recommended that a special rate be put in place for the transport of goods and patients into the hinterland communities. He also asked the government to look into travel subsidies with the current domestic airline operators as a partner. If these do not work he posited, the government should look into transporting goods using the Guyana Defence Force’s skyvan or build roads so they can be less dependent on air transport.

“Private aircraft owners, we need to understand that we are living in a difference economic environment, I know you have to make profits but at some point in time, because we are your customers you need to talk to us and maybe there is a need for to develop a taskforce, somewhere in Georgetown, so that we have good communication,” he added. To give a clear picture of the situation, Thomas explained that the cheapest freight charge is $182 per pound and price ranges from $182 to $210 per pound. “It’s a burden for us now, the indigenous communities, we are not like all others who are fortunate to earn something and so this is what is happening. The cost of food items, fuel has gone up and our survival is at stake.” “You may ask, you’re an indigenous person, you have the cassava bread, but let me tell you, climate change, heavy rainfall has affected farming so greatly that we are probably on the last bits of farms. The complexity comes with the wild hogs and the cushi ants, helping the destruction. And so when we depend on you and when the prices are gone up, it’s like, there’s little hope,’ the Toshao expressed. In addition, persons whom they call ‘middle men’ are taking advantage of the situation. When a person wants to charter a flight to the hinterland such as Paruima, it costs $762, 434 and that only caters for 2600 pounds which is not enough to supply rice or flour for a community with over 800 residents.

After listening to the Toshao's concerns and suggestion, President of the Aircraft Owners Association Gerry Gouveia Jr said the issue of high air fare is happening globally and is not limited to Guyana.

President of the Aircraft Owners Association Gerry Goveia Jr. [Not Seated]

Gouveia Jr took note of the subsidy suggestion and indicated that this is something they could look into but acknowledge that support is needed from the government.

Coupled with the increase for fuel, Gouveia Jr explained that most of the runways in the hinterland are very short and this does not allow larger planes to fly into these communities.

"If we can get to eventually lengthen the runways and in Kamarang if we can get to 5000 feet then we can start getting bigger aircraft which will bring down the cost per person and per poud. But as long as we have short runways we have to have aircraft to meet the short runways."

This and a number of recommendations were made by domestic airliners and they recommitted to making travel efficient and low of cost even while facing challenges that is being experienced globally. Minister within the Ministry of Public Works Deodat Indar who was present at the meeting assured that all recommendations made at the meeting will be sent to Cabinet for consideration. “His Excellency would be engaged after this meeting with the team of the aviation sector so that we can come up with some solutions as fast as we can,” the minister stated. Indigenous leaders had bemoaned the high price of airfare at the National Toshao Council (NTC) Conference and as such, President Irfaan Ali convened a meeting with domestic airline owners and Toshaos to address their concerns.


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