Guyana government scrambles to keep Delta

A Guyana government team is to travel to the Atlanta, George headquarters of the world’s largest airline in a bid to persuade it and its recognized brand name from pulling out of the Caribbean trade bloc nation this spring leaving the popular Georgetown-New York City run entirely up to Trinidad-owned Caribbean Airlines officials said this week.

The move follows indications from Delta Airlines that it will stop accepting travel reservations to Guyana from May 6 of this year. Delta has been operating non-stop services to Guyana since 2008 but has so far given no reason for blocking reservations and not scheduling flights to the country beyond the first week in May.

Spokeswoman Sarah Lora said Delta has not yet “made an official announcement regarding the JKF-GEO route. Delta has not confirmed flights for the JKF-GEO route beyond May of 2013. As soon as we have a decision we will communicate the status of the flight,” she said in a statement.

Industry experts say they are unsure whether Delta is using the May 6 end game as a negotiating ploy against the Donald Ramotar administration to pressure it into make some key compromises that could include lowering the taxes on fuel, beefing up security to lessen persistent cases of drug smuggling out of Guyana or to even grant it an annual million dollar subsidy payments to continue operating the route much as its Caribbean neighbors do with other big western carriers or whether it is losing money on the route.

If it in fact decides to leave, it will mean that only Trinidad-based Caribbean Airlines will operate the service giving it a monopoly on the route and sparking fears among travel agencies that prices will likely be increased as a result.

Airlines flying the Guyana route have consistently complained about the relatively high costs of refueling airplanes as well as high security charges to prevent cocaine shipments and mules riding on flights to the U.S.

The presidential secretariat said Tourism Minister Irfaan Ali and a high level team is arranging to meet with Delta officials shortly in a bid to persuade the carrier not to pull out, leaving the country without a globally recognized airline offering seamless connections worldwide.

On the face of it, Guyana has had a hard time attracting and keeping brand name carriers to the country, forcing it to accept and accommodate lesser known, no-frills carriers run by dubious characters or companies, most of which collapse after a few months often leaving hundreds of passengers stranded on both sides of the Atlantic.

New York-based EZ Jet was the most recent of these, going under spectacularly last year in the midst of a fraud scandal that landed CEO Sonny Ramdeo in jail in connection with allegations that he had defrauded a hospital chain for which he worked and had used the money to open and operate EZ Jet. Universal Airlines, also linked to New York Guyanese also folded up while the better known Leisure Air quit after a few months.

Possible contenders to pick up the slack if Delta walks could include Suriname Air making amendments to its Georgetown-Miami run or newly minted Guyana-Jamaica joint venture Fly Jamaica, due to begin operations this month.

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