Fewer than half of the seats on the Caribbean Airlines flight was sold. (Photo: degrind.com)

By Kenton X. Chance  

The four chartered flights that offered tickets to the public brought 296 passengers to St. Vincent and the Grenadines when they landed at Argyle International Airport on Feb. 14, the day that the airport began operating officially.

The figure represents just about 46 persons more than the full capacity of the Dynamic Airways’ Boeing 767 aircraft, which created history by becoming the first non-stop commercial flight from North America to St. Vincent.

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Dynamic Airways created quite a stir when it landed, bringing a number of onlookers to tears.

But immigration officials told iWitness News, on Thursday, that only 12 of the passengers on the flight, which originated in New York, were bound for Argyle.

The flight was organised by Guyana-based Roraima Airways and made a transit stop at Argyle before continuing to Guyana.

No passengers embarked for the Argyle-Georgetown leg of the flight.

In addition to the Dynamic Airways flight, two chartered flights, paid for by the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, also landed at the airport.

Head of the Tourism Authority, Glen Beache, had expressed confidence that both flights would have been sold out within an hour of the arrangements being announced.

Beache had said that the flight could have cost taxpayers as much as US$100,000 each, but was confident that the money would be recouped via ticket sales, adding that he was not trying to make a profit.

Only 74 passengers arrived on the Caribbean Airlines flight from New York.

Dynamic Airways created quite a stir with its historic landing and departure on Feb. 14. (iWN photo)

The figure was less than half of the seating capacity of the aircraft, which could seat 154 passengers.

Among the passengers on that flight was Minister of Tourism, Cecil “Ces” McKie.

McKie appeared as a guest on a radio programme last week and, in response to a caller who had asked him about the number of passengers who arrived on the flights, said, “Why are we still trying to make a negative out of these things?”

Seven passengers departed St. Vincent on the Caribbean Airlines flight.

The other government-organised flight was operated by Sunwing Airlines, which flew from Toronto to Argyle.

This flight was the best patronised, bringing 131 passengers, just 58 passengers shy of its full capacity (189).

The airline took seven passengers on its outbound leg on Feb. 14.

Also on Feb. 14, Roraima Airways operated a chartered flight from Cuba to Guyana, which made a transit stop at Argyle.

Gerry Gouveia, manager of Roraima Airways, had said he was looking to land a planeload of Cuban shoppers at the airport as a Valentine gift to Prime Minister, Ralph Gonsalves.

The EasySky aircraft, which can seat 149 passengers, brought 79 passengers.

Gonsalves had said that his government would bring back to St. Vincent for the opening, 60 of the Cubans who worked on the construction of the airport.

Minister of Tourism, Cecil “Ces” McKie was in quite the celebratory mood on the Caribbean Airlines flight from New York. (Photo: degrind.com)

Gouveia had told iWitness News that a number of Vincentian students studying in Cuba were expected to fly home on the flight.

The outbound leg of the flight did not take on any passengers.

Dynamic Airways did not operate a return leg on Feb. 21 — the day when the three other charters operated.

Passengers were apparently turned off by the fact that they would have had to transit in Guyana for seven hours before flying back to New York — arriving in Georgetown at 9:30 a.m. and leaving at 4:30 p.m.

On the other hand, EasySky did not bring any passengers on Feb. 21 and left with 20, while Sunwing Airlines brought seven and left with 104.

Caribbean Airlines brought four passengers and took 62 to New York on Feb. 21.

Passengers on the Sunwing flight were asked to pay CAD$899 return and CAD$449, one way.

Business class passengers on Caribbean Airlines were charged US$1,400 return and US$749, one way. For economy class tickets, passengers were charged US$899 return and US$499, one way.

Argyle International Airport began operation on Feb. 14, six years behind schedule and with no international carrier having committed to making regularly scheduled flights to the destination.

The airport was built at a cost of EC$700 million, and has left taxpayers with a debt of EC$400 million.

4 replies on “Valentine charters brought 296 passengers to Argyle”

  1. C. ben-David says:

    Every large commercial flight in the world carries passengers who have their passage paid for by other parties who would not have otherwise have travelled were this not the case.

    But the 296 number reported here grossly exaggerates the number of passengers who deplaned at Argyle because it included a disproportionate number of such non-paying flyers who passage was sponsored by the government of SVG or other parties given of the ceremonial nature of the flights.

    Also, many ticket-paying flyers chose one of these flights not because they were planning to travel to SVG at this particular time but because of the historical nature of the February 14 airport opening.

    I suspect that at least half of the 296 passengers fell into these two categories, Cecil McKie being one of them.

    In other words, I hypothesize that no more than 150 passengers chose these flights because of they were planning to come to or leave SVG at these particular times and because flying non-stop from Toronto or New York was more convenient than flying through Barbados, St. Lucia, Grenada, or Trinidad, their other options.

    All in all, this poppy-show opening at a poppy-show airport was a huge flop, as I will show in a soon to appear essay.

    1. I don’t think you could base the success of the airport on the number of folks who flew in on the chartered flights in.

      The chance that any of those flights were going to be filled was very slim. Let us take the Caribbean Airline flight out of NY as an example. The details for that flight was not released until just about a week before the opening of the airport. Now unless there is an emergency situation, or for business, hardly anyone would wait until then to book their flight. So to expect anyone who was trying to avoid stopping in any of the other Caribbean islands not being on any of those flight as your argument is just simply ridiculous.

      Also, let’s take into consideration the cost of this flight. Before the PM announced the opening of the airport, I was looking at flights to travel down to SVG for February. I could have gotten a return flight out of Newark for under $500.00, you could generally find flights out of JFK cheaper. To expect people to come up with $900.00 , in just about a week, get time off from their job, and so forth a bit much.

      One more thing to consider. These flights could be booked directly with the airlines. For someone who is not afflilated with SVG, or maybe Vincentians who doesn’t follow the news closely, would have had no way of finding any of these fights. This would not be the case, if and when you start having regular internatlonal flights coming directly to SVG. A majority of folks booking travels, do so through sites like expedia, and so forth; if you couldn’t find these flight on the airlines’ on website, then you certainly weren’t going to find them on any of these booking engines. So the only folks who were going to show up on these flights, were folks who knew about them, and could have afforded to pay the higher cost, to travel last minute.

      Now i’m not saying the planning and excution of the opening wasn’t flawed. I know if there was maybe a month and a half to 2 months between the announcement, and opening, with flights information already in place, that i would have most likely been on the flight out of JFK to SVG. Not just for the opening, but simply because I wanted a trip down. I’m certain with more time to plan, there would have been more individuals on those flights.

      In conclusion, I don’t think the number of individuals who travel down for the opening, represent a failed/ing airport. Also, having a new airport doesn’t mean that SVG is immediately going to have an uptick in tourist, or travelers to our shores. To think that, is just nearsighted.
      I don’t expect everyone to be optismistic about the airport, but give it a chance before you start writing your doom and gloom.

      I know one thing for sure, i’m very excited about my trip down hopefully this summer. Can’t wait to have my family coming to my homeland with me for the first time.

      Big up to SVG

  2. skeckpalmer says:

    This experiment proves what many of us were blogging about for several years: AIA will not fulfill Ralph dreams of bringing more tourists to SVG. Many folks believed, “if you build it they would come”. However, this trip proves it will take more than a beautiful airport to attract visitors.
    For those who believe all Vincentians should now get on board are asking people to board the Titanic. They are now asking farmers to get on board when the government spent years devaluing agriculture which was once the backbone of the island’s economy. They are asking the fishermen/women to do the same thing, while it has never paid attention to the fisher-folks cries.
    The infrastructure and resources for the arrival of AIA was supposed to be done years in advance. But because of the secrecy and lies from Ralph, Glen and McKie, businesses were reluctant to make the move, except Ken Boyea who went down and very hard.
    I will advise all those who bragged about the advantages the airport will bring to SVG to start investing. Don’t look for others to do their dirty work, especially in an environment where the government is bias against business and business persons who don’t have a RED shirt of a ULP card. These folks should stop blaming others for the imminent failure to attract tourists to SVG. What the hell you expect me and others to do?
    This government doesn’t have the ideas and knowledge to promote SVG as a tourist destination. It will take people with different outlook and tourist acumen to come up with the right projects to attract visitors to mainland SVG. Ralph is now talking about building a hotel.[…]

  3. Take it easy folks. It is just an airport, nothing more. It will have at least the same amount of traffic as the old airport except in a modern Facility. The old airport was an embarrassment. It was by far, one of most dilapidated national airport in the developing countries. Of course, it not going to delivery all the things the government said it will do. Also, it is not all gloom and doom as per the opposition. The new facilities do offer some opportunities and it is up to Vincentians to take advantages of it.

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