A LIAT aircraft landed at Argyle on Sunday as part of the ULP rally there. (Photo: Lance Neverson/Facebook)

Trinidad-based, state-owned regional and international carrier, Caribbean Airlines (CAL) will fly to long-delayed Argyle International Airport, when it is completed.

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, however, gave no indication of when these flights will begin when he made the announcement on Sunday at a rally of his Unity Labour Party (ULP) at the incomplete airport.

His address was part of a rally where a chartered LIAT flight with hand-picked party supporters state officials and other persons on board landed in what political observers have described as an attempt to sway voters ahead of Wednesday’s general election. The flight, which had an all-Vincentian crew, originated at E.T. Joshua Airport about five minutes by air from Argyle,

The EC$729 million airport at Argyle, which has been under construction for over seven years, has missed completion deadlines annually since 2011. Gonsalves said Sunday that the airport will be completed around Easter 2016, but the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) has said that it is likely to be completed by 2020 if the ULP remains in office.

A source close to the project told I-Witness News in November, shortly after four small aircraft landed at the airport as part of test flights, that the work that remains is more likely to be completed towards the end of 2016.

Argyle, the nation’s first international airport, now joins E.T. Joshua and Canouan, bringing to three out of six, the number of airfields in St. Vincent and the Grenadines where a aircraft from LIAT’s fleet of ATR 72-600 and ATR 42-600 can land.

Gonsalves told thousands of party supporters at Sunday’s rally that airlines from North America, Europe and Latin America will fly to Argyle. He, however, declined to name any of them besides CAL.

“Well, when the time is appropriate, I will tell you which planes coming. But, believe me, we have the planes lined up,” he said, noting that a magazine on airport business has Argyle on its cover with a story headlined “Build it and they will come” — a mantra Gonsalves has used to justify the airport.

“Well, we build it and we are making all the arrangements and they are coming from America, from Canada, from England, from Europe, Latin America and CAL out of Trinidad,” he said.

A section of the crowd at the ULP rally at Argyle on Sunday. (Photo: Lance Neverson/Facebook)
A section of the crowd at the ULP rally at Argyle on Sunday. (Photo: Lance Neverson/Facebook)

He said the opposition wanted to stop the LIAT landing and pointed out that Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace wrote to the regional civil aviation authorities noting that the airport is incomplete and the landing was taking place days before an election.

“The authority gave a clean bill of health on the airport for LIAT. And then they (the opposition) turn around and bring pressure on the Chief Executive Officer of LIAT,” Gonsalves said, adding that a number of NDP persons came to the airport on Sunday “spying”.

“They never expect LIAT to land you know. But the chief executive officer wrote and told them — I don’t know if they get the information before the plane land. They told them that the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority has approved the airport as being fit and proper and worthy and there is no safety problem, and, secondly, it’s a straightforward commercial transaction, and that LIAT will be landing,” Gonsalves said.

“And LIAT came and you saw LIAT landing and you saw we all came out of the LIAT plane. Because, as I said to you time and again, and as Rudy Matthias (head of the airport company) said tonight, over 6,000 feet in length has already been surfaced,” he said of the runway from which fire fighters had to chase stray dogs ahead of the touchdown.

One-third of the runway remains unpaved, but Gonsalves reiterated that the completed section is much longer than at E.T. Joshua Airport, the nation’s main aerodrome. “And it’s just a short distance remaining and it’s a piece of cake to surface the balance,” he said.

LIAT is owned by the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and St. Vincent and the Grenadines with a combined shareholding of 90 per cent between them. The remaining 10 per cent is owned by other regional governments and minority shareholders.

Gonsalves is chair of the shareholder governments.

Gonsalves told the rally that voters have to decide on Wednesday whether they want him “to be here to open this airport sometime after Easter next year or you want Eustace to be here to say he going open beyond 2020, if at all”.

He noted that in Eustace’s letter to the civil aviation authority he said the request for LIAT to land at Argyle was being seen as a political manoeuvre aimed at influencing the outcome of the election.

“He knows that this Argyle International Airport, the people are likely to reward us for the hard work which we have done here over the last seven years plus to build this airport and he doesn’t want us to get any credit for it. Wha’ you want people to do? Give you credit for what yo’ try to stop?” Gonsalves said.

4 replies on “CAL will fly to Argyle airport — Gonsalves”

  1. “Build it and they will come,” was a mantra repeated by a jumbie (spirit; ghost) in a work of fiction turned into a successful Hollywood film called “Field of Dreams” starring Kevin Costner.

    No one who ever read the book or watched the film adaptation could ever believe that the story was true. Still, the idea was very compelling which is what fiction is all about.

    Unlike the book readers and film viewers, our gullible people have bought Ralph’s “Field of Dreams” hook, line, and sinker.

    The “hook” is the promise of the untold riches the airport will bring; the “line” is the metaphorical rope he has around the neck of his true believers; and the “sinker” is the sea of debt and misery the failure of the airport will bring upon us all.

    As for the nonsense about CAL, we already have LIAT flights from Arnos Vale to Trinidad back.

    Will CAL ever fly non-stop to SVG from New York, Toronto, or London — its only overseas hubs — when it only goes non-stop from these take-off points to Trinidad and Jamaica?

  2. Brown Boy USA says:

    Ralph Gonsalves should be indicted!

    Imagine you spent over $700 million dollars on an international airport only to land LIAT and 4 small planes, and the people of this country is dropping and celebrating that? That an insult and a slap in the face. Anything to fool the people for a vote.

  3. Dr. Dexter Lewis says:

    Gonsalves, do you realize that planes of the size you had land in Argyle have for more than 50 years been landing in Rabacca. And the citizens of SVG did not spend a cent to do anything in Rabacca.

    You have spent nearly $800 million dollars at Argyle and have nothing to show for it.
    Is that the extent of how great you are? Is this another “master stroke”. Are we on the cusp of DELTA AIRLINES taking off from Argyle? Is that all you can achieve with our $800 million dollars?

    How much of that money has been stolen? What about BRITISH AIRWAYS, OR DELTA AIRLINES, or AMERICAN AIRLINES, or AIR CANADA? Nothing? After $800 million dollars, Nothing.

    If we let you continue are you going to use your famous “business acumen” like you did with NCB or BUILDING & LOAN or CLICO?

    4 IN A ROW? NO, NO, NO.
    YOU HAD 3 AND MUST TO GO.

  4. Cal would of come to Arnos Vale but Gonsalves refuse to alow them saying they were flying on subsidized fuel putting LIAT at a disadvantage. Now the liar king out of panic brings them to Argyle because no one else no other airline no major airline will come to Argyle. Its to do with numbers of people or traffic as the call it. No airline wants to fly a route empty or half empty they will require the government to pay for every empty seat that will increase the loss that the airport makes.

    The airport will make an annual loss of $25million every year for the foreseeable future, where will that come from we have already spent a billion dollars and according to a bank survey we owe a billion dollars in loans and bonds with no industry, no agriculture and a broken fishing industry to help repay our debts. We are nationally, regionally and internationally bankrupt.

    Those in the Diaspora have been greedy and selfish because they all think because the liar king told them they will be able board an aircraft in their own city and arrive directly to Argyle, what a shock they will have when the still land at Barbados for some time to come.

    Within one or two generations those Vincentian decendents in the Diaspora will forget about SVG perhaps coming to SVG once or twice during their lifetimes. But Vincentians at home will still be paying the debt for the next hundred years.

    Yes we all wanted an international airport and if it had been built and paid for in the traditional method it would have taken half the time, and time is money. The cost doubled because of time taken by using the Cuban workforce which Gonsalves told us the Venezuelans were paying the wages bill but that turned out to be untrue. The Cubans which cost three time that of Vincentian have take nine years to complete a three year project.

    We have no way of knowing if the Venezuelans are paying the wages of the Cubans and if the money paid by SVG to the Cuban embassy is being pocketed by some group in SVG. I say that because no accounts have ever been submitted to parliament or the people in the past nine years, everything is so secretive. When people hold secrets it is usually because something evil is going on.

    We need to change the government so as a proper and in depth forensic audit can take place.

    Some of you will remember I wrote about equipment that was purchased by the airport company, whereby I found the actual price paid for that equipment directly from the vendors. So that will be available to compare with the price paid by the airport via third party thieves. I know it has happened by just one set of plant that I investigated.

    Then lots of the land around the airport project prior to ground breaking was purchased by a company owned by airport management and a wife. That was out and out insider trading and requires investigation.

    I wrote about that also but nothing was done about it at the time pointing perhaps to involvement by politicians.

    There is only one way we will get justice and retribution against these people and that is to remove the ULP and its leadership and prosecute all those found to have acted illegally.

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