Caribbean News Service- Some Caribbean countries were told to provide a firm date when their airports would be reopened or risk being excluded from American Airlines’ rotation until November, it has been revealed.
The tourism dependent countries were forced to close their airports in March to stop the spread of COVID-19. A few have since reopened.
“I know for example that American Airlines would have read the riot act to a few Caribbean countries and would have said to them that if they do not give them a specific timeline as to when they will reopen their airports, that they would not be part of their rotation between now and October,” Prime Minister Gaston Browne said Saturday.
“So they may have to wait until about November before they can get flights. And I don’t know any country within the Caribbean, that is heavily dependent on tourism, that would risk not opening before November because of the economic consequences.”
Browne did not say if Antigua and Barbuda was among the countries given an ultimatum.
Antigua and Barbuda reopened the V.C. Bird International Airport on June 1, and its first international flight, American Airlines from Miami, landed on June 4.
“These airlines, they have billions of dollars in assets [and] those assets have been sitting down for about 90 days now, and they want to get their rotation going as soon as possible to start to move people so that they can turn a profit and they would not be faced with bankruptcy,” Browne said.
“So, you will find for example, that the Caribbean countries, especially those of us who are dependent on tourism, we really have no choice but to move in accordance with the wishes of those multinationals that wish us to move quickly so that they can start to move people and make money. And the reality is, if we don’t move quickly then there are consequences.”
Meanwhile, Browne said while some have argued that Antigua and Barbuda should have insisted on pre-testing for COVID before allowing people to travel to Antigua, that was not a practicable solution.
“The airport authorities, the airlines, they were not taking any responsibility to test anybody. In many instances they don’t even take the responsibility for passengers to wear masks, but at least American Airlines has been instituting that policy because that’s mandatory here, it’s mandatory for everyone to wear a mask here in Antigua and Barbuda, Browne said.