Founder and Managing Director of SVG Air, Paul Gravel says that the increase in fares between the Lauriston Airport and Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA) is absolutely necessary if they are to remain serving this air-bridge daily.
At the commencement of the year, the cost of a one-way ticket has adjusted from $160.00 to $185, while a return ticket, which was $310.00 is now $335.00.
Speaking to Informer’s Inside Carriacou and Petite Martinique from St Vincent and the Grenadines before boarding a flight for Antigua on Sunday, Gravel reiterated that they were sinking and had they continued at the same cost they would have soon been out of business.
He said that the company continues to operate in the red between Carriacou and Grenada due to the high cost of maintenance of the Islander aircraft and the many taxes and fees that they have to pay to keep the aircraft airborne.
According to him, in spite of the addition in the fare, it is still very low compared to what others have been paying for a similar distance.
“The length of time for the journey between St Maarten and Anguilla is about the same from Lauriston to MBIA and they pay about US$ 170 for the flight,” he pointed out.
This he points out is all due to the continuing struggles to get the government to provide them with lower fees to commence operating a Twin Otter aircraft.
He applauded Minister for Civil Aviation, Hon Clarice Modeste Curwen, Manager of the MBIA Wendy Francette Williams and Chairman of the Airport Board, Richard Strachan for their support in his proposal on how the Twin Otter can benefit Carriacou and mainland Grenada when the St Vincent Grenadines is incorporated into the route.
However, he added that until they “walk with their cheque book” the challenges would continue.”
Gravel said that it’s difficult to find pilots willing to work on the Islander (nine-seat) aircraft. He further disclosed that he faces added challenges, as the pilot on the mainland doesn’t work on Saturdays in observance of his Sabbath as a Seven Day Adventist.
“And Saturday is always our most productive and successful day of the week,” said the SVG Managing Director.
However, he said that plans continue to move forward to have a nineteen-seat aircraft service Carriacou and Grenada before the end of the year.
According to him, it will take in the region of $600.000.00 to get this in full operation. He said that it would require him to source pilots, engineers and accommodation to do so. He added that the laws of the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority are extremely firm and rigid and the demand is that the plane and the engineers wait for six to eight months while all tests are carried out.
“To have a plane and engineers sit and wait for this length of time and you have to pay and house them is a very high cost,” said Gravel.
He said some pilots work for as much as least $17,000.00 a month.
The SVG founder and managing director added that those pilots would also have to fly into the country to work, which he said could be very costly.
Gravel is suggesting that the current administration provide them with better support as is being done to the company by both the Antigua and Montserrat governments.
“They subsidize us because they are aware of the important role we play towards their local economy by moving people to those destinations.
“Why can’t we get the same here especially as we have for years been operating at a huge loss between Carriacou and Grenada, he asked?
The SVG boss said that there is an aircraft called the Caravan, which is also a nine-seater that can service the route.
“However those cost about US$ 3 million each.
“But they are good with one engine at the front,” pointed out Gravel.